Farmington Hills commission passes marijuana rules to council

With one dissenting vote, the Farmington Hills Planning Commission on Monday sent a revised medical marijuana ordinance to city council members.

Commissioner Steven Schwartz raised questions about the draft. Essentially, it limits caregiver operations to the city’s Light Industrial zoning districts. Growers can operate now in residential neighborhoods.

Council members asked for a review based on complaints about odor and noise. Caregivers can grow up to 72 plants for themselves and as many as five patients.

If approved, the rules would not affect existing neighborhood operations, but  would prohibit new ones.

Consultant Rod Arroyo explained that the ordinance amendment has no effect on individual use.

Among other provisions, the draft would allow up to five caregivers to share a lot, as long as their product is locked up separately. Schwartz asked what would happen if a single caregiver created a business and then four “dummy corporations” to get around state law.

“They’re legally separate operations, and I make them look different, but I’m really skirting the MMA (Medical Marihuana Act),” he said.

Schwartz also worried that neighboring property owners would be “ticked off” to have a medical marijuana business next door. He also didn’t see how the ordinance would get the operations out of neighborhoods.

“They’re not licensed right now, we’re guessing where they are,” he said. “As long as I’m not shooting my mouth off, and as long as I prevent an odor, and my neighbor’s not ticked off at me, you’re not gonna know that.”

City attorney Steve Joppich said enforcement would fall to the city’s zoning department.

“We do get reports about activity in neighborhoods,” he said. “There are also aspects of grow operations that reveals them, and there has been an ongoing effort to identify them through code enforcement.”

Arroyo said while it’s possible for five caregivers to locate in one building, it’s unlikely.

“These facilities tend to be highly secured, and the value of what’s inside is high,” he said. “They are typically less likely to locate with users who are unrelated.”

Commissioner Joe Mantey, an economist, said that, as a commercial activity, medical marijuana caregiving is “essentially a dead market.”

“We’re spending a lot of time on something that’s very unlikely to happen,” he said. “If you want to do this and make money, you’re going to use the updated Medical Medical Marihuana Facilities Licenses Act to make a profit.”

The point of caregiving, commissioner Barry Brickner said, is not to make money – although some do.

“This is something they’re supposed to be doing for people who can’t grow their own,” he said. “Most of the operations in our city don’t follow the rules for caregivers, and they’re making money off of it. This might be just a limited thing until the city decides whether they want to get into licensed grow operations or not.”

Brickner was also concerned about restricting caregiver operations to the point where they can’t do anything in the city, which he said would violate state law.

“The purpose of this is for people in our city to be able to get their medicine,” he said. “This is more a convenience to our residents than people with growing operations.”

While he eventually voted against the measure, Schwartz praised the city attorney and consultants.

“I think they’ve done a terrific job of trying to thread a needle here,” he said.

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