Medical pot business issue still alive in Galien Township

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GALIEN — Medical marijuana businesses still have a chance of being allowed in Galien Township.

The township’s planning commission voted 3-1 Monday to recommend that the township’s board of trustees craft an ordinance of intent to develop local laws regarding medical marijuana. Casting the opposing vote was Caleb Carr. Planning commission member Kim Schmitz was absent for the vote.

Carr said if he had to vote on it Monday night, he was going to vote “no.”

But clerk Jennifer Richter, who had a vote, said: “I don’t want to just shut it down. It deserves a lot more discussion and research. And we want to hear from everybody.”

The township board, which has the final say on the matter, is expected to consider an ordinance of intent during the board’s April 19 meeting at the township’s fire station. This comes just several months after the Michigan legislature passed three laws, in late 2016, which provide immunity from state and local criminal prosecution for five types of medical marijuana businesses.

The planning commission’s vote followed the group’s second public forum on the issue. About 50 people attended the forum. Twelve people spoke in favor of allowing state-licensed, state-regulated commercial cannabis businesses in the community. Ten people spoke against it, and one person asked questions without voicing an opinion.

Several speakers expressed their view of how the businesses could make medical marijuana more safely and readily available to card-carrying medical marijuana patients. Economic benefits for the community, such as the potential for good-paying jobs, was also mentioned.

Other speakers voiced various concerns, such as whether such businesses would invite crime to the area or depress local property values.

Galien Township is one of many municipalities across the state considering whether to opt into the new state laws. The laws are only for five types of medical marijuana businesses: retail dispensaries, grow operations, processing operations, secure transport operations, and product safety compliance testing facilities.

The Michigan laws do not affect federal laws regarding the production, sale and possession of marijuana.

Berrien County Prosecutor Mike Sepic and Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey voiced opposition at the forum regarding local adoption of the new state laws.

Galien Township has five different local requests pending in all of the business categories except testing facilities, Richter said.

Meanwhile, the state will accept license applications starting Dec. 15, making it very unlikely that these commercial cannabis sites would be able to launch operations prior to Jan. 1, 2018.

One of the new laws requires a statewide, internet-based system to be put in place for seed-to-sale tracking of commercial medical marijuana and medical marijuana products. That means that each license-holder for each business has to interface with the statewide system using a secure third-party inventory system.

The 2016 medical marijuana laws does not impact the 2008 Michigan Medical Marijuana Act, which allows a card-carrying patient or the patient’s registered caregiver to grow up to 12 marijuana plants in an enclosed, locked facility.

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