Board is unanimous: Medical marijuana not wanted

Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey makes his case for Baroda Township to not allow a grow facility in the township.

BARODA — Growing marijuana for medical purposes isn’t welcome in Baroda.

The Baroda Township Board on Monday informally but firmly turned thumbs down on a proposal for such a facility from Nick Stama, of Singer Lake Road.

Supervisor Jim Brow took an informal poll of the board’s sentiments following comments against the proposal by Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey and Berrien County Prosecutor Mike Sepic. Several audience members also made comments against it.

Treasurer Brenda Troxell said while she recognizes “a benefit and a need for medical marijuana,” municipalities that grant licenses for growing facilities may endanger their federal funding and grants. “That’s a deal breaker,” she said.

“I want to opt out” by doing nothing, Clerk Wendie Shafer said. Trustees John Harner and Dave Wolf agreed.

“I have to make it unanimous,” Brow said. “To me, drugs are illegal. I would no more touch marijuana than I would rob a bank.”

In response to questions from audience members, Stama, who once raised ostriches and now produces oyster mushrooms on his farm, said the facility would not use any more power or water than his current or past operations have done.

Stama’s son-in-law, who did not give his name, said the operation would sell medical marijuana to a dispensary, and would not dispense it to the public. He also said several municipalities in Berrien County already license such facilities.

“We’re asking for the same right,” the son-in-law said. “We’re farmers.”

The growing operation would take place in an indoor, locked facility, and requirements call for a security system and video monitors, he said.

Sepic said the board should not do anything that might increase marijuana usage. Increased usage results in more auto crashes and loss of employment, and the usage filters down to children, he said.

Reports show that some recreational users are able to get permits to buy and use medical marijuana, Sepic said.

Sepic cited statistics compiled by Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz. Those statistics said that in 2011-12, about 92 percent of 120,121 patients with medical marijuana cards used marijuana for such ill-defined complaints as pain, spasms and nausea. Only about 4.5 percent used it for cancers, AIDS, HIV, or glaucoma, he said.

“Your conscience has to decide,” Sepic said. If the board approves the request, “you’re going to be part of the problem. ... Why make it worse? Why do we want to create a larger problem?”

Stama’s son-in-law countered that Sepic’s “statistics are skewed” because he deals with people charged with breaking the law.

Bailey didn’t think so.

“We don’t need a grow ‘op’ in Baroda,” Bailey said. “...I think this is bad for the state of Michigan. I think we’re going to be worse off.”

Bailey urged the board “to do nothing” – not take any vote at all – “and we won’t have to worry about this.”

If the board approved the request, “All you’re doing is adding to the problem,” said Bob Getz, president of the Baroda Village Council. Baroda village residents are also township residents.

There were more than 40 people at the meeting, though about half were there for the introduction of Baroda’s Blossomtime royalty and for awards to two Baroda firefighters.