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Township takes a breather on medical marijuana

The Happy Harvesters storefront in Brandon Township. (click for larger version)
March 23, 2011 - Brandon Twp.- Woody Moore sells everything you need to grow vegetables indoors, or, with the exception of seeds, marijuana.

The co-owner of Happy Harvesters Hydroponics and Indoor Gardening Center of Ortonville opened his new shop at 1772 S. Ortonville Road on March 18 and within three days, said he had about 40 people stop in to look over his inventory which includes lights, soil, nutrients, containers and fans.

"We have the knowledge base to offer information on growing cannabis to anyone who comes in and shows their medical marijuana license," said Moore, who has a medical marijuana patient card himself as a sufferer of rheumatoid arthritis, and is also authorized to grow marijuana for other patients. "Most people are still hush-hush about what they are doing, because of the way the laws are. They are unsure of the gray area because the laws aren't that defined."

It is that uncertainty and lack of definition in the law that prompted the township board to unanimously pass a six-month moratorium on medical marijuana during their March 21 board meeting.

"We haven't gotten guidance from the state on how to enforce this," said Supervisor Kathy Thurman. "It's prudent for the township to pass a medical marijuana moratorium. There are still too many questions on the best way to enforce the Medical Marijuana Act."

On Nov. 4, 2008, Michigan voters approved by 63 percent the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act. The law went into effect Dec. 4, 2008.According to the state regulation, patients may possess up to two and one-half (2.5) ounces of usable marijuana and 12 marijuana plants kept in an enclosed, locked facility. The 12 plants may be kept by the patient only if he or she has not specified a primary caregiver to cultivate the marijuana for him or her.

The Atlas Township Board and the Ortonville Village Council passed moratoriums on medical marijuana dispensaries last year. Two months ago, Groveland Township Supervisor Bob DePalma was contacted by Caregivers of America, who expressed interest in establishing a co-op for growing medical marijuana in the community. The Groveland Township Planning Commission is currently discussing a potential ordinance regarding a medical marijuana dispensary in the township.

Sgt. Pete Burkett, Brandon substation commander, said the narcotics unit of the Oakland County Sheriff's Office is spending the majority of their time right now busting medical marijuana dispensaries. At the Brandon Township board meeting Monday, he said the board had four options regarding medical marijuana: one, pass the moratorium and wait to see what other communities are doing; two, pass an ordinance; three, attempt to ban medical marijuana dispensaries, bypassing Michigan law to go under federal law as Birmingham has opted to do; or four, do nothing and see what happens when people begin applying to establish a dispensary here.

"There will be facilities in Groveland and Commerce townships," Burkett told the board. "Places can hold dozens of grow operations... You do not want that in Brandon."

The board opted for the 180-day moratorium which takes effect immediately and which states there shall be no consideration or action by any board member, official, employees, commission or again on any proposal to establish a land use, activity, business or famility relating to the "medical use" of marijuana in the township, including no action on any application for a zoning or building permit, approval or certificate for such a land use, activity, business or famility; nor shall medical marijuana land uses, activities, business or facilities be permitted in the township.

The moratorium goes on to say that the planning commission, with help from other officials, will study, deliberate and recommend to the township board whether, how and where medical marijuana land uses, activities, businesses or facilities should be permissible in the township and under what conditions or circumstances.

The moratorium resolution will also be sent to Governor Rick Snyder, State Senator David Robertson, and State Representative Brad Jacobsen requesting the state legislature amend the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act to provide a framework enabling local communities to properly, safely, and consistently implement the intentions of the MMMA approved by voters.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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