HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Yes Or No To Medical Marijuana Businesses
Pubdate: Mon, 21 Aug 2017
Source: Detroit Free Press (MI)
Copyright: 2017 Detroit Free Press
Contact: http://www.freep.com/article/99999999/opinion04/50926009
Website: http://www.freep.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/125
Author: Kathleen Gray

COMMUNITIES DILEMMA: YES OR NO TO MEDICAL MARIJUANA BUSINESSES.

To weed or not to weed? That is the question for Michigan's
communities.

As the state board that will regulate Michigan's new medical marijuana
law begins to craft the rules that will govern the multimillion dollar
industry, the state's cities, townships and villages must decide
whether they want in or out.

As they are making their decisions, local officials are being
bombarded with phone calls from people who want to gain a foothold in
the medical marijuana business and are promising untold riches for the
communities that let them in.

"Our development department gets calls every day," said Ferndale Mayor
Dave Coulter. "Because we're Ferndale and a very progressive
community, people assume we'll participate in some way."

And Ferndale probably will allow medical marijuana businesses into the
Oakland County city, Coulter said. But the city council is being
careful and deliberative on how many, what type and where medical
marijuana businesses can locate within the city's borders.

"We're essentially starting from scratch and asking ourselves which of
the five licenses that we want to participate in and to what extent,"
Coulter said.

Under Michigan's original medical marijuana law that was approved by
voters in 2008, caregivers could grow up to 12 plants for each of six
medical marijuana cardholders. Right now, there are 240,000 people who
have gotten medical marijuana cards that allow them to use weed
legally to treat a variety of ailments. They are served by 40,000
state-approved caregivers.

The law passed by the Legislature last year regulates and taxes the
industry and creates five categories of licenses -- those for growers
who can produce up to 1,500 plants; processors; transporters; testing
facilities, and dispensaries. The dispensaries will be taxed 3% on
their gross receipts, and that money will go back to the state and
local communities.The communities -- 276 cities, 257 villages and
1,240 townships -- have time to make their decisions on whether to opt
in or out of the medical marijuana business. Applications for the five
categories of licenses won't be available until Dec. 15, and the
Michigan Medical Marijuana Licensing Board won't begin issuing
licenses until early next year after conducting extensive background
checks on the business owners.

But a medical marijuana business can't even begin the process to get a
license from the state until it has gotten approval from the community
where it want to locate.

Some communities have already jumped on the medical pot bandwagon,
passing ordinances that will bring a variety of new business to their
towns. According to an unofficial list developed by the Cannabis Legal
Group, a Royal Oak law firm that represents medical marijuana clients,
so far, six municipalities have passed ordinances, 25 more are likely
to pass ordinances in the near future and 14 communities have decided
to stay out of the business.

"It became really obvious me that this is what people want," said
Barton Morris, the principal attorney at the Cannabis Legal Group.
"The number one question I get is, give me a list of the cities who
want in."

In Bay County's Bangor Township, local leaders passed an ordinance in
July that would allow up to 50 growing facilities, 10 processors, six
dispensaries, five testing facilities and five transporters. Like most
communities, the facilities can't be within 1,000 feet of schools,
churches, or parks and can only operate from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Township Supervisor Glenn Rowley said while he's happy about the added
tax base that will come to town, he's more enthusiastic about job
opportunities for township residents and having long vacant buildings
put back into productive use.

One company that wants to start a marijuana growing operation has
purchased a former Dow Chemical commercial pipe building that has only
been used for storage for the last 20 years.

"Ford and General Motors are not looking to put a plant in Bangor
Township, so this is something that fits. I now know that there is a
good use for a lot of old buildings that would otherwise be rubble in
a few years," Rowley said. "We need to embrace this. It's not a Cheech
and Chong movie. It's not hippies selling pot out of the back of the
van."

Other communities are more conservative. In Marshall, the city
restricted the areas where facilities can be placed to two industrial
zoned areas, leaving room for only four or five businesses in the
town. One company -- Michigan Great Lakes Farms -- has already
purchased 25 acres in one of the industrial zones, gotten a site plan
approved by the city and plans to apply for a state license to grow up
to 1,500 marijuana plants, said city manager Tom Tarkewicz.

While Marshall's ordinance also allows for permits for testing,
processors and transporters, there will be no retail shops where
medical marijuana can be sold.

"We got a clear understanding from people at our public forum," said
Mayor Jack Reed. "They were concerned about the sales in our community
and didn't want it."

Other communities don't want medical marijuana businesses in their
community at all. The City of Monroe opted out, for now, because the
state hasn't come up with the rules and regulations yet that will
govern the industry.

"There are a lot of people trying to position themselves to operate,
and we didn't know what the regulations are going to be. The best
thing for us was to take a break," said Vince Pastue, Monroe city
manager. "We'll do a reassessment in 2018."

But in Grass Lake Township, elected officials just said no to pot.

"It's a gateway drug to heroin. The marijuana today is much more
potent than several years ago and much more addictive," said Township
Supervisor Jim Stormont. "People have been calling in, wanting to buy
land and saying, 'If you legalize marijuana, your state, township and
schools can benefit financially.' But Grass Lake is financially
secure. We don't need the money, and the side effects outweigh any
benefits."

Some cities -- such as Detroit and Ann Arbor -- have already allowed
dispensaries to operate, but don't yet have ordinances passed by their
city councils.

Detroit has approved permits for seven dispensaries that currently are
operating under the existing medical marijuana law. Another 70
dispensaries are in the approval process and are operating, and 174
shops have been closed by the city. An ordinance to deal with the
other categories of state licenses has been drafted, said assistant
corporation counsel Kim James, but it will be up to the city council
to approve the ordinance and determine how many licenses will be
issued in each category when the council returns from its summer break
next month.

The businesses that are already operating will have a leg up when it
comes to getting a state license because they've already gone through
the permit approval process in the city.

"We're assuming that most of them are going to want to switch to
provisioning centers under the new law," James said.

The City of Troy has approved permits for 59 growers under the
existing law, but has put a moratorium on any new grow permits, said
assistant city attorney Allan Motzny.

"The city council has not made a determination yet if they're going to
opt in or out," he said.

Current businesses, however, operate and buy land at their own risk.
While communities must make the initial decision on whether and who to
allow in, it will be up to the state to grant the license.

"The Medical Marihuana Licensing Board will approve a facility's
license application on a case-by-case basis," said Jason Moon,
spokesman for the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, the
agency working with the licensing board.

Also In the back of most communities' minds is what will happen if a
proposal to fully legalize marijuana for recreational use gets on the
2018 ballot and is passed by voters. The proposal also allows
municipalities to opt in or out of the marijuana business and imposes
a 16% tax on the product that will be returned to roads, schools and
local communities.

"Local communities are grappling with having to implement something
without crystal clear directions from the state," Ferndale's Coulter
said. "And we don't want to do something that would be totally upended
by a further expansion of the state law. We're trying to predict the
unknown."
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