Fenton Twp. — Effective Jan. 1 2022, Fenton Township will have new rules and regulations for medical marijuana growers, also referred to as caregivers.
Caregivers must have a business license and they must contain growing operations in their dwelling or attached garage. These are a few of the changes approved by the Fenton Township Board of Trustees on Monday, Oct. 4 with a medical marijuana ordinance and zoning amendment.
Michael Deem, zoning administrator, said when the voter-approved Medical Marijuana Act was passed in 2008, it didn’t give much guidance on enforcement for municipalities.
“Now it’s a lot more clear as to what we can and can’t regulate. It always used to be that we weren’t able to regulate. We weren’t even able to ask someone to see their card. Well, that’s changed,” Deem said. “What we’re looking to do is put some reasonable restrictions on the caregiver aspect of it … it treats it similar to home occupations.”
The vote was 6-0. Trustee Robert Kesler was absent.
Deem said the Michigan Supreme Court has made multiple rulings on the topic, and the township is following these guidelines.
The DeRuiter v. Byron Township (2020) decision established that growing operations must take place in a dwelling or attached garage, it restricts the number of caregivers in a municipality to two people who must be full-time residents and the distribution of the product must not occur on site.
In the ordinance, the township also included that the use of a primary caregiver’s residential dwelling for medical marijuana related purposes shall not occupy more than 25% of the dwelling’s floor area, but in no case shall exceed 300 square feet of the dwelling. This revision was added to the ordinance after Supervisor Vince Lorraine and Deem met with Saqib Nakadar, who was appointed to the Marihuana Advisory Panel established by the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act by former Gov. Rick Snyder.
Lorraine said Nakadar offered a lot of expertise and helped them develop a “great” ordinance.
A caregiver is allowed to have 72 plants. With the township allowing two caregivers, they would allow up to 144 plants being grown in the township.
The York Township v. Miller decision (2021) does not allow outdoor growing, and the Ypsilanti Township v. Pontius (2020) decision prohibits primary caregiver operations in non-residential zoning districts.
“It’s not about commercialization. It is to allow a primary caregiver the opportunity to provide up to their five patients. It’s not intended to allow multiple caregivers to congregate and create co-ops and a commercial district,” Deem said.
The township’s ordinance and zoning amendment includes these regulations. These changes do not affect the township’s prohibition on recreational marijuana establishments. Citizens are still allowed to grow up to 12 plants for recreational purposes due to state law.
The township will not enforce these new rules until the beginning of 2022 to allow time for people to come into compliance.
The board talked for a while about the definition of “full time resident.”
Trustee Christine Reid said, “We want to avoid people coming in, renting a home in a neighborhood and spending one night a week there or one night a month there and saying, ‘well I’m renting that home, it’s my residence.”
Lorraine asked if there’s a definition of “primary residence.”
Attorney Jack Belzer said he believes they should only allow one caregiver per address, and that they should have a definition for “full time” or “primary residence” for legal reasons.
The board agreed to discuss this more before enforcement takes effect on Jan. 1.