Planners unanimously OK marijuana ordinance changes.

February 5, 2016

pot leafBy Allison Scarbrough. OCP Editor.

HART — The planning commission unanimously approved amendments to the city’s medical marijuana growing ordinance Thursday, Feb. 4, as a recommendation to the city council to adopt the proposed changes.

Complaints of odors caused by marijuana growing operations prompted city officials to amend the ordinance.

Amendments include a requirement that all growing operations are equipped with a filtration system and that they are located at least 500 feet away from other growing operations.

The filtration system requirement applies to all existing and new operations, said City Manager Stan Rickard previously, whereas the 500-feet-rule applies only to new operations.

The amendments also include establishing caregiver registration and permits.

Randy Miller, who is the building inspector for the city and for Oceana County, previously said he has been in four homes in the city where medical marijuana is grown.

“Odor complaints are best dealt with by filtration systems,” Miller said. A filtration system makes it a “non-nuisance property,” he said.

Mechanical duct work has to be approved by the city with a zoning permit. “Most growers are trying to stay as low key as possible,” Miller said.

There is a $10 fee for a residential zoning permit and $25 for a commercial zoning permit.

The medical marijuana growing operations must be kept “very confidential,” Miller said, because it is medical information. “We’re treading new waters,” he said. “They have a right to privacy, and we are learning how to keep it low key.”

Information about the caregivers, including their registry identification cards and information about qualifying patients, will remain confidential with the city and will not be distributed to the public.

The Michigan Medical Marijuana Act was approved by voters in November of 2008. The state doesn’t specify each local jurisdiction’s rules, Rickard said. Individual municipalities can establish their own rules as long as they do not contradict the state’s rules, he said.

The city hired a consulting firm, LSL Planning, to assist with the ordinance changes.

David Jirousek of LSL said Thursday that the amendments are designed to:
1. prevent concentration of caregivers through the 500-feet rule and the permitting system;
2. strengthen the ordinance through odor control; and
3. maintain consistency with state law.

“As medical marijuana use has increased, many jurisdictions in Michigan have enacted ordinances to regulate primary caregivers,” according to LSL. “Local zoning can regulate the areas where medical marijuana is permitted and adopt reasonable regulations to mitigate negative impacts. In Hart, and in many other jurisdictions, primary caregivers are limited to operation within a home occupation.”

Caregivers cannot operate within 1,000 feet of a school or library as defined by the Michigan Public Heath Code to ensure compliance with the Federal Drug Free School Zone requirements.

Several ballot proposals to legalize recreational marijuana use are vying to get on Michigan’s November 2016 ballot.

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