2018-08-08 / Front Page

Worth planners nix medical pot businesses

810-452-2684 • skovac@mihomepaper.com

Seven citizens serving on the Worth Township Planning Commission were placed on the hot-seat last week charged with deciding the future of medical marijuana in their community. From Left to right - Paul Zeller, Richard Martin, Byron Wilson, Lynn Judd, Stan Lessard, Jennifer Woodruff, Matt Hernandez. Photo by Steven Kovac Seven citizens serving on the Worth Township Planning Commission were placed on the hot-seat last week charged with deciding the future of medical marijuana in their community. From Left to right - Paul Zeller, Richard Martin, Byron Wilson, Lynn Judd, Stan Lessard, Jennifer Woodruff, Matt Hernandez. Photo by Steven Kovac WORTH TOWNSHIP — The welcome mat for newly legalized medical marijuana businesses seeking to open in this community was abruptly rolled up last week by the planning commission.

On Aug. 1 the planning commission voted 7-0 to recommend to the township board that the township optout of the provisions of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act (MMFLA).

The final decision now rests with the elected township board to accept or to overrule the recommendation.

The elected board will have the chance to do one or the other at their meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 15 at 6:30 p.m.

The elected board is comprised of the township supervisor, clerk, treasurer and two trustees.

“It’s my intention to place the planning commission recommendation on the board’s agenda for that evening and to make a motion to accept it,” said trustee Walt Badgerow.

“People need to realize that the real battle is now just beginning. The advocates of medical pot will not back off. They will completely ignore the common sense so aptly presented by the planning commission and the community,” he said.

The lopsided planning commission action came despite the desires of Fort Gratiot attorney Justin Smith, who had pledged in a letter to Worth officials to invest nearly $2 million for the opening of a medical marijuana dispensary and a 1,500 plant grow operation in the township.

Late in 2017, Smith purchased a building on a half-acre of land at 7566 S. Lakeshore Road for $150,000 and a 13-acre tract of uncultivated agriculture land on nearby St. Clair Road for $65,000 for the purpose of growing and selling medical marijuana.

Dispensaries, grow operations, processing centers, laboratory testing sites, and secure transportation facilities (warehouses) are the five newly legalized and heavily regulated enterprises permissible in Michigan since passage of MMFLA by the state legislature in late 2016.

The new law leaves it to local city, village, and township governing boards to decide whether they want to opt-in or optout of MMFLA’s provisions.

A third option is available to localities under the statute which allows that if a community’s elected board or council does nothing, the effect is the same as opting-out.

A disappointed Smith told the News in an email after the vote that he felt the public had not been sufficiently informed of the financial benefits that, he says, would accrue to the township.

“It is easy to see how the revenue is raised (for the township). 3 to 5K per license application fee. A 3 percent local tax. Increased property taxes/ values. Share of state excise tax with other opt-in jurisdictions.”

Smith said, “I respect both the planning commission and the board. It’s not easy to sit up there and make tough decisions dealing with passionate people on both sides.”

The financial benefits argument apparently didn’t sway planning commission member Stan Lessard, who told the News after the meeting, “I don’t see that this supposed new revenue would be near enough to offset the costs of us hiring out for even one police officer. We don’t have a police department of our own. We don’t have the resources to enforce this thing. We made a good decision.”

During the meeting, it was Lessard who made the motion to recommend to the township board to opt-out.

Speaking during a formal discussion prior to Lessard’s motion, planning commissioner Matt Hernandez stated, “We have taken a long time and worked hard researching and trying to get the best information we can. After doing so, in my view, it is not right for this community.”

Planning commission chairperson Lynn Judd said he felt the new medical marijuana businesses are best suited to be placed in communities where they wouldn’t be so clustered, but rather spread out more evenly.

Member Byron Wilson commented, “I don’t think it is wanted or needed in this township.”

Member Richard Martin observed that Congress gives the Federal Food and Drug Administration authority to approve such medications. “We should wait until they do,” said Martin. “I’m for opting-out. For me, it’s a scientific decision.”

Member Paul Zeller stated, “Looking at my notes of our hearing, I see that the people’s views were made known. The majority of those that spoke were for opting-out. So am I.”

Township treasurer Jennifer Woodruff, who that night replaced township clerk Jennifer Stanyer as the board’s representative on the planning commission, began her remarks by quipping, “What a night to take over from Jennifer!”

Woodruff went on to say, “I’m not against the use of marijuana as a medicine for those patients that could be helped by it. However, I am in favor of opting-out. This community is just not right for it. This whole thing has been nothing but a headache since day one.

“I don’t want to go on having to answer people’s questions when I meet them in the grocery store or at church. I have been asked in the presence of my children, ‘Are you going to bring these marijuana places into our township?’ I am so over it. We have no police force. I don’t see where we would find the necessary means to enforce this.”

During audience comments at the end of the agenda and after the vote, long-time area businessman Jack McNulty of Galbraith Line Road remarked, “This issue affects me very seriously. My property backs up to the grow location on St. Clair Road. A mother with small children across the street from it is worried about traffic. I recommend these facilities go where they are wanted and needed. Maybe in an industrial park somewhere else. I’m glad you voted to opt-out. I hope this thing is over and done with now.”

Jerry Paradoski of Sheridan Line said, “I hope the elected board will take your recommendation.”

Sharon Kaufman of Lakeshore Road wondered out loud from her seat in the audience, “Maybe the elected board should be drugtested to see if they have any personal interest in the matter?”

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