Residents living in the Liberty Square complex of townhouses will see a sticker appear on their homes Tuesday, when the Ypsilanti Township Building Department places...read more
Ypsilanti Township Trustees took a step toward restricting the newly-legal medical marijuana industry Tuesday by voting unanimously in support of an amendment to the township zoning ordinance, which will allow those designated as “caregivers” under the state law to grow and dispense the plant only in “light industrial” zoning districts.
The new restrictions, which went into effect today when the ordinance was published in the Ypsilanti Courier, are an attempt by the board to ensure the operation of such nurseries or dispensaries in the township are not rampant in residential neighborhoods, according to Township Supervisor Brenda Stumbo.
“I don't know if this ordinance is perfect, but at least it's getting it out of our neighborhoods,” Stumbo said. “Under the state law, you could have every home with 72 plants growing inside, all in a residential neighborhood.
“That's just not good planning,” she said. “I can't imagine a whole subdivision being like that.”
Since the township conducted the first reading of the resolution to change the zoning ordinance on May 5, Stumbo said she had personally received about 10 calls from residents who were angry the township would not be allowing medical marijuana to be grown or dispensed in residential areas.
One township resident, who asked not to be named, told board members she would have considered becoming a caregiver and responsibly growing medical marijuana out of her home as a means of secondary income, and was unhappy the township would not allow that under the new ordinance.
She said the restriction to industrial zones would increase the cost of medical marijuana to patients and could attract crime in a high-profile industrial area, whereas inside a private residence the growing operation could be much more clandestine.
When asked by residents present at Tuesday's meeting why the ordinance would only allow operations in industrial districts, Assistant Township Attorney Angela King said it had been determined medical marijuana growing operations, similar to traditional plant nurseries, should be in industrial, not residential or commercial districts.
Another resident, who also asked to be anonymous, pointed out that most commercial nurseries grow thousands of plants, but the state law would restrict the maximum number of plants that any one caregiver could grow up to 72.
Township resident Arloa Kaiser said she did not want to see marijuana grown in her neighborhood.
Another resident requesting to not have his name printed said he thought requiring medical marijuana operations to be housed in industrial districts took away the anonymity given patients and caregivers in the state law, which prevents even police officers from getting the names of either party from the state.
Township Clerk Karen Lovejoy Roe said industrial districts are appropriate for medical marijuana growing and dispensing operations, since they are business operations.
“It is a business,” Roe said. “It belongs in areas that are not residential.”
King said, like other new zoning ordinances, there would be a grandfather clause allowing any existing medical marijuana nurseries or dispensaries, after showing proof of existence prior to the law going into effect today, would be authorized to continue in other zoning districts as “non-conforming use.”
Restrictions in the ordinance
The ordinance zones medical marijuana dispensaries or nurseries “I-1” light industrial.
State law allows caregivers to grow the plants for a maximum of five patients, who are each allotted a maximum of 12 plants. This means if the caregiver is also a registered medicinal marijuana patient, they can grow a maximum of 72 plants for themselves and their five patients.
Dispensaries could conceivably get around this state restriction, Police Services Coordinator Mike Radzik said, if caregivers team up. The ordinance under consideration by township trustees; however, would restrict the number of plants grown to 72 in any one location.
The planning commission, when considering the new ordinance, had suggested dispensaries be allowed in business zoning districts instead, since they felt the business was similar to a pharmacy.
When the board considered the issue at its April 22 meeting, Roe suggested allowing dispensaries that don't actually grow marijuana to operate in business zoning districts, but to restrict marijuana nurseries to industrial zoning. Such a change was not considered by trustees Tuesday.
The proposed ordinance also places restrictions on dispensaries and nurseries, prohibiting them from being set up within 1,000 feet of another dispensary, a house of worship, a K-12 school, a child care organization, a public library or a residential district.
Other restrictions include a ban on using marijuana on the premises, a ban on sale of drug paraphernalia to anyone other than patients and caregivers and an age limit of 18 unless the minor is accompanied by a parent or primary caregiver.
Final consideration of marijuana ordinance set