KALAMAZOO — Those who grow medical marijuana for patients registered with the state of Michigan would have to operate as a home-based business under a draft ordinance collaborated on by two departments in the city of Kalamazoo.
Under the state’s medical marijuana law, registered caregivers can grow up to 12 marijuana plants for up to five patients each, for a maximum of 60 plants per caregiver. And although the city has not seen caregivers in the city operating as commercial pot businesses, officials wanted to get ahead of the possibility that they could, said City Attorney Clyde Robinson.
“Medical marijuana is the issue of the moment in the state regarding municipalities,” Robinson said. “We want to underscore the fact that (caregivers growing medical marijuana) is not to be a commercial operation.”
Robinson’s office, along with the Community Planning and Development Department, is meeting with neighborhood agencies, local pro-medical marijuana groups and members of the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety in order to hear all sides of the issue, he said.
Once the meetings have concluded, the draft ordinance will go to the Planning Commission and, if approved, head to the City Commission for final approval. Robinson said there isn’t a timetable yet for when the law might take effect.
Under the draft ordinance, a caregiver would need additional permits to operate their growing operation and would have to be inspected by the city for wiring issues, fire prevention and other structural issues, Robinson said.
“The same goes for any kind of home-based operation,” he said. Robinson said that inspectors would not inspect the growing operations themselves.
In addition, the draft ordinance spells out other requirements of caretakers that are already in the state’s medical marijuana law, such as keeping marijuana plants in a closed, locked facility and that a caretaker can have only five patients per week. It also contains additional regulations, such as the need to shield illumination from grow lights between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. to prevent “ambient light spillage.”
Failure to abide by the law would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days in jail and/or a $500 fine.
A home-based business in the city, such as a daycare or a catering business, cannot have more than eight customers per week.
John Targowski, a Kalamazoo attorney who has litigated several cases involving medical marijuana, said he thinks that the ordinance is unnecessary, calling it “overly broad.”
“This (ordinance) is government regulation that’s already well-regulated by the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act,” he said, adding that state law already caps at five the number of patients a caretaker can have.
Language allowing for public safety officers to inspect a caregiver’s place of business was removed from the draft ordinance last week after Robinson and other city officials met with local medical marijuana advocates.
“They were really upset that police could make an after-the-fact inspection,” he said. “They thought that it gave public safety carte blanche and I tend to agree with them.”
Targowski, who was at the June 18 meeting, said that a majority of caretakers in the city grow medical marijuana part-time for two to three patients. A caretaker with five patients who sells 1 ounce of medical marijuana per week — a large amount — to each of them could make between $45,000 to $65,000 per year, he said.
Still, adoption of the ordinance could have a “chilling effect” on those who want to become caretakers but fear involvement by city government, Targowski said.
“The ordinance is getting into dangerous legal grounds,” he said. “It’s an additional burden for them (caretakers).”
Robinson said that the city is not trying to crackdown on the legal use of medical marijuana in the city or those who are legally growing the drug for patients, acknowledging that about 75 percent of voters in the city voted to approve the use of medical marijuana when it appeared on the November 2008 ballot. The law went into effect in April 2009.
“We’re not saying that it shouldn’t take place, just the opposite,” Robinson said of the legal growing of medical marijuana. “We just want to see it operated legally and not pop-up as a commercial operation. This ordinance would strengthen that intent. It would eliminate overt commercialization.”
Published: Wednesday, June 23, 2010