By Rosemary K. Otzman
At the end of a brief public hearing to discuss a proposed ordinance to regulate marijuana provisionary centers in Sumpter Township, a man in the audience raised his hand and asked when he could sign up to have one.
This was at the Sept. 11 hearing held at the Sumpter Community Center that, when you sorted it out, brought just 13 members of the public, along with township officials and police personnel. Also present was Cannabis Counsel representative Thomas Lavigne, an attorney who is an advocate for legalizing marijuana.
Township attorney Rob Young said it would be quite a while before anything is in final shape for anyone to apply.
Planner Laura Kreps agreed that the ordinance is still a document they are working on.
The zoning ordinance on medical marijuana provisionary centers is different than the general law ordinance on provisionary centers that the township board is in the middle of passing. The board had the first reading of that ordinance recently and needs to have the second and final reading, but is waiting for the zoning ordinance to pass with it.
The township passed a medical marijuana growers ordinance in 2011 just after the state passed its medical marijuana act.
Sumpter Township Police Det./Cpl. John Toth has been working with attorney Young and planner Kreps to move the two new ordinances forward to give the township a way to manage the provisionary centers which are expected to become legal after House Bill 4271 gets to the governor’s desk for a signature.
The new state law is expected to turn over enforcement of the provisionary centers to the local municipalities.
“How do you live with the law?” Det./Cpl. Toth said, referring to the process Sumpter is going through. He said 23 states allow medical marijuana, two states have legalized marijuana and another state has it on the ballot in November
“What do we do? How do we deal with it?” Toth asked.
Planning Commission chairwoman Jane Stalmack said Sumpter would like to be the leaders and at the front end of the picture, rather than backing into it after it’s here.
“Where is it going to be sold?” asked Barbara Villeneuve of Harris Road, adding she didn’t think it should be in residential areas.
Kreps said she drafted a zoning ordinance to allow provisionary centers in Commercial zonings and General and Light Industrial zonings.
The centers would be a permitted use in the Industrial zonings and would need special land-use approval, with a public hearing, in the Commercial zonings.
Also the centers would need to be at least 1,000 feet from a church or school, 500 feet from another provisionary center or drug/alcohol rehab center and 250 feet from residences.
She said the ordinance presently calls for 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. hours, no on-site cultivation allowed, all parking on-site, and one means of ingress/egress.
“Not one thing is set in stone and that’s why we’re here tonight,” Kreps said.
Mary Sherwood pointed out that from Lohr Road to Rawsonville on the north side of Willis Road there is Residential zoning in the front and Industrial zoning in the back.
“They could put it in there,” she said.
Gaynor Villeneuve said her mother-in-law’s problem is that a neighbor has people coming and going through the night and dogs barking.
Toth said the provisionary centers would eliminate traffic at his residence.
“A caregiver is not allowed dispensing from his home,” said Commissioner Matthew Oddy, noting a grower is only allowed five patients.
Sharon Pokerwinski asked how many provisionary centers will be allowed in Sumpter and she was told presently they plan to allow just three in the whole township and attorney Young is checking into whether Sumpter will be allowed to limit them. That limit would be a part of the general law ordinance being passed by the township board, not the zoning ordinance.
Sherwood asked the commission what its members were thinking, wanting to know where would they like centers to go.
Chairwoman Stalmack repeated the thought that Industrial and Commercial zonings would be suitable places.
When asked if there have been any applications for provisionary centers, Toth said there have been no true applications, but there have been some proposals from growers to open a dispensary.
“On a weekly basis, something comes up,” Toth said. “We were at an unlicensed grower today, of all days.”
“Sounds like growers can go in and do what the hell they want to do,” said Gaynor Villeneuve, point out her mother-in-law, who has lived here since 1969, now has to keep her window shut all summer because of the smell. “It’s like having a Tim Horton’s in your back yard.”
Oddy pointed out the township’s caregiver ordinance was tailored around what the state law allows.
By Rosemary K. Otzman