By federal law, marijuana is an illegal substance. But in November 2008, Michigan voters overwhelmingly supported legalization of marijuana for medical use. With two opposing forces — the federal law and the state’s Medical Marijuana Act — local municipalities find themselves in a Catch-22.
That’s why Commerce Township has chosen to take a “hands-off approach” regarding the enforcement of medical marijuana use.
As such, two amendments to the township’s Code of Ordinances were introduced on Tuesday, March 8 to reflect what the state has outlined in the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act.
“We wanted to have the ordinances reflect what the state has said,” township attorney Hans Rentrop said. “We’ve basically cut and pasted from the state law. Marijuana use and growth is prohibited except where allowed under the Medical Marijuana Act.”
He added, “It’s a confusing thing. The problem is this natural tendency for people to not want to accept medical marijuana because it has been illegal and problems arise from it. Even though some people feel that way, you can’t throw out the democratic system and what the people of Michigan voted for. While statutes are currently less than ideal, they are there. You have a vote, you have a law. The township has merely tried to accept what the state and people have said.”
The current state law requires medical marijuana patients to carry identification cards issued by the state, and caregivers to grow limited amounts of marijuana for qualifying patients in an enclosed, locked facility. A caregiver can help up to five patients and may grow 12 plants per patient.
Both patients and caregivers must be registered with the state.
Rentrop said that those not complying with the law and illegally using marijuana in the township would still be prosecuted.
As for the business end of medical marijuana growth, there are no specific Commerce ordinance provisions in place. Rentrop said the township looks to “treat it just like any other business.”
“If someone wants to open a business, they have to get approved for zoning use,” he said. “We’re trying to establish what do they require as a business. We don’t regulate whether the business is appropriate.”
However, Rentrop acknowledged that the township may change direction as the law evolves. People have speculated that lawmakers in Lansing will be working to clarify the law, or even make some substantial changes to it.
“It’s a work in progress to try to figure out the best way to handle it,” he said. “In the meantime, we’re trying our best to comply with what the feds have said, the state has said, and what the people said.”