BENTON TOWNSHIP — Benton Township will start taking applications for medical marijuana facilities by Oct. 1, but won’t move on the retail marijuana side until the state decides how to regulate it.
That was the split verdict at Tuesday’s meeting, where township board members unanimously adopted a proposed medical marijuana ordinance, but opted out of the recently approved recreational marijuana law.
Township board members discussed both ordinances at a workshop held earlier this month, and passed them on second reading Tuesday night.
Township Superintendent Kelli Smith said Tuesday’s actions are driven by different definitions of state law.
“The medical (marijuana) portion, we can elect which facilities we will approve for the township. The ordinance did not include provisioning centers, so there’s no sales storefronts of the recreational (marijuana).”
Although Oct. 1 is the initial deadline, the township could push it back to Jan. 1, 2020, if it needs more time to formalize the application process, she added.
“The application really is the biggest piece – all of the requirements are included in the ordinance, but it’s not been put in an application format, so we just have a little bit of work to do, to take applications at the township hall,” she said.
In contrast, the board opted out of the recreational marijuana side until the state finalizes the language needed to regulate it, Smith said.
Municipalities can out of the medical marijuana law by doing nothing.
“The way it’s (the recreational marijuana law) written, it is not clear if we’ll be able to limit the type of allowable facility, so you can’t opt out of the sale piece,” Smith said. “The state hasn’t finalized rules and regulations like they have for medical (marijuana).”
Either way, Smith and Township Treasurer Debbie Boothby said that it’s already clear there’s plenty of interest in the marijuana business.
Smith estimates that she’s taken “upwards of 10 phone calls” from businesses inquiring about the issue,
As if to illustrate those words, both officials wound up taking a card from a woman representing a business called Justice Grown, who left without talking further to them.
The initial application fee spelled out under the medical marijuana ordinance is $5,000, with an additional recurring fee of $5,000 per year.
The ordinance language allows up to 10 growers of any class and 10 processors, as well as any number of secure transporters.
Growers and processors would be located in industrial zones, through special use only, the ordinance language states. Secure transporters will be located in light industrial zones, also by special use.
The township superintendent, the Executive Committee and chief building official would review completed applications for additional criteria beyond what’s spelled out in the ordinance.
That criteria includes the number of anticipated employees, plus square footage, plans for employee training and education, and the total amount of anticipated investment in the business.
Sixty-four percent of township residents voted last November for Proposal 1, which allows recreational use and sale under certain conditions.
The law required municipalities to say if they wanted to allow for retail marijuana businesses in their jurisdictions.
However, the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulation is still working out licensing and permit specifics. It has until the end of 2019 to roll those out.
“That was one of the reasons that we didn’t want to look into it, until the state figures out what they were doing – so we could understand what we’re allowed to do,” Boothby said.
Until then, recreational marijuana establishments aren’t allowed in the township, with violations deemed a civil infraction punished by $100 to $500 fines, according to the language passed Tuesday night.
The township may also seek an injunction, and try to cover whatever it might cost to pursue an offender.