Council Makes No Decision on Marijuana Options

By CYNTHIA KMETT 

There’s a new state law in effect that allows five kinds of medical marijuana activities to come to a city. A city can “opt in” to the program, or any of its five parts, or it can “opt out.”

Not sure of what those decisions might mean for Troy, City Council put a moratorium on any new grow facilities and their decision on whether to be part of the “opt in” or “opt out’ side of the question for 180 days, which will be up in mid-March.

The council held a study session on the question last Monday. They didn’t reach any decision on any part of the five potential types of businesses that could come to the city should they decide to opt in.

In case you’re wondering what kinds of businesses the five options in cities the state law now allows, they include: 1) grow facilities for up to 1,500 plants; 2) processing facilities for medical infused products; 3) safety compliance centers for testing the potency and purity of medical marijuana; 4) provisioning centers for the sale of medical marijuana and edibles (think dispensary); and 5) secure transporter facilities that will move the medical marijuana from one licensed facilities to another. City administration recommended to council that they not allow medical marijuana facilities in the city.

While many folks voted for medical marijuana to help patients with debilitating medical conditions like cancer, MS, HIV, glaucoma, and AIDS, they were surprised at how easy it has turned out to be to find doctors who will approve a medical marijuana license for almost any condition. Originally the state estimated there would be somewhere between 2,000 and 55,000 people who needed medical marijuana. By 2016 there were 256,663 people in Michigan with medical marijuana licenses, 24,416 of them on Oakland County alone.

At Monday’s meeting, council let the visitors speak first, and there were a number of residents in opposition to the city “opting in” to the new program. As Nancy Morrison, executive director of the Troy Community Coalition asked: “Protect our children. We don’t want to normalize marijuana and them think it’s no big deal.”

Former Troy City Council member and now Oakland County Commissioner Wade Fleming concurred. I would be voting to “opt out,” he said, asking that “council make the right decision for Troy …please protect our children.”

A number of other citizens voiced similar sentiments, asking “What kind of a city do we want to be?” JoAnn Preston asked: What would residents get for opting in? Do we want dispensaries in our shopping centers near our children?

There was one speaker who said she’d like to open a marijuana testing facility in the city, and there was a lawyer who apparently represents those who already have rented Troy industrial facilities and are caregivers allowed to grow marijuana for cardholders. Of course they’re limited to 72 plants now, and if Troy opted in they could grow 1,500 plants. He also indicated that if Troy opted out two things could happen, either the current growers would move out of the city leaving their industrial buildings empty, or they could start a referendum petition and put their own marijuana bill on the Troy ballot with much different rules than the state’s.

That might be a lot harder petition to get Troy voters to sign than one to save our green spaces.

Then it was council’s turn to speak. Councilman Dave Henderson was firm vote to opt out. “I don’t think it’s a good fit for us.”

Councilman Ed Pennington noted that some formerly empty facilities have been rented by growers, but added he “was not in favor of dispensaries.”

Councilman David Hamilton observed, “It looks like we have to do all the work and the state gets the bulk of the money.” He suggested a “wait and see” posture, as there was too much uncertainty right now.

Councilwoman Ellen Hodorak asked: “What does this do to our reputation as a family-friendly community?”

Councilman Ethan Baker observed that “growing can be done properly,” but some of the other parts of the options, he’s not sure about those.

Councilwoman Edna Abrahim pointed out it already looks like there are loopholes in the state laws. Plus, she asked where the city stood if real conflicts between this state law and the federal law arise. She suggested we let other cities “stub their toe” on this one before Troy makes any decision.

Mayor Dan Slater wondered if we should put an ordinance together to manage some of the questions.

The rest of council didn’t seem eager to have staff spend time on an ordinance the city might never need. Most actually just wanted to see what other cities would decide and how it would go for them before any decision on opting. There is no pressing time limit.

Council will, however, have to make a decision on the moratorium by March.