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Will twp. spend money to create medical marijuana ordinance?

June 30, 2010 - Whether Oxford Township allows and regulates medical marijuana dispensaries or simply bans them outright may come down to one thing – money.

"That's exactly what it boils down to," said Planning Commission Chairman Todd Bell.

Specifically, does the township board wish to spend the necessary funds for its attorney and planner, working in conjunction with the planning commission, to come up with ordinance language governing medical marijuana dispensaries?

Or do officials wish to adopt an ordinance similar to the City of Livonia's, which prohibits dispensaries by virtue of the fact that use of all marijuana, including that for medicinal purposes, is a violation of federal law.

"We've got to get direction from the (township) board," said Bell, who noted the commission approved a motion to that effect last week. "Here's the issue – we can do something as simple as adopt the Livonia (ordinance), which is quick and easy, which I don't like. Or we can start spending some money."

Bell warned that drafting such ordinance language wouldn't be cheap.

"Off the top of my head, I think we're going to spend between $5,000 and $10,000 on this to write it properly," he said. "Every time an attorney looks at something, you know how much that is."

Throw in the township planner's fees and Bell said, "By the time you start adding hours up, it doesn't take long to get into some real money."

Bell noted there's no line-item in the planning commission's budget to cover the expense of creating this ordinance language.

Back in April, the township board considered adopting Livonia's ordinance based on a recommendation from Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard.

Livonia's amendment to its zoning ordinance basically prohibited uses for enterprises or purposes that are contrary to federal, state or local laws.

At the time, township officials took no action regarding Bouchard's recommendation.

Bell indicated the planning commission wasn't too keen on it either.

"The feedback I appeared to get (from) around the table was that we don't necessarily agree with Sheriff Bouchard and the Livonia ordinance," he said. "We'd like to do it right and (do) what we think is right."

Bell indicated the commission would like to create an ordinance that's in keeping with the wishes of the 63 percent of Michigan voters who approved the legal possession, use and cultivation of medical marijuana.

The planning commission's ordinance review subcommittee suggested four potential zoning districts in which to locate medical marijuana dispensaries – local commercial (C-1), general commercial (C-2), research-office (RO) and light industrial (I-1).

"Maybe it needs to be inside a medical building," Bell said. "Wherever there's a medical building or a pharmacy, maybe that's the right spot for those to be in."

The subcommittee also suggested other regulations such as limiting their hours of operation, keeping them at least 1,000 feet from day care facilities and making them apply for special use permits that would be renewable on an annual basis.

But the subcommittee's suggestions may all be for naught because Bell isn't too hopeful that the township board's going to invest in the ordinance creation process.

"I think the board is going to flat deny it because they don't have any money to spend either," he said. "They're in a budget crunch, so I don't think they're going to want to spend the money."

The township board is expected to discuss the issue at its July 14 meeting.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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