GALIEN — A variety of medical marijuana-related businesses could soon be in Southwest Michigan in light of a new state law.
And three such businesses are eyeing southern Berrien County.
Galien Township is the latest municipality to see a medical marijuana facility proposal brought forward. New Buffalo resident Carie O’Donnell is asking Galien Township to amend its zoning ordinance to allow her to grow marijuana on land along Olive Branch Road. She is a registered caregiver and a medical marijuana patient.
Galien Township planning commissioners discussed O’Donnell’s proposal at their meeting last week and tabled the matter to get more information. Township Clerk Jennifer Richter said commissioners and other township officials will attend a workshop offered by the Michigan State University Extension Service on the new state laws.
Specific proposals haven’t been announced in Niles, but city officials have said they’ve been approached by a number of marijuana growers who want to know if the city is interested in allowing such facilities.
Buchanan has received a proposal to allow a marijuana dispensary in the 1100 block of North Red Bud Trail. City resident Johnny Wallace asked the city to amend its zoning ordinance to allow the center in which medical marijuana patients can buy tested marijuana.
Wallace contends the business would not disturb neighbors and be secure while providing a quality product.
Jennifer Rigterink of the Michigan Municipal League said Friday many communities around the state are debating whether to allow medical marijuana facilities.
“Communities are all over the place,” she said. “We have communities inquiring about what other communities are doing. Some are trying to educate and prepare themselves on the new act.”
She said the impetus is the package of laws Gov. Rick Snyder signed in September in an effort to clarify the 2008 voter-approved medical marijuana law. The laws expand the types of medical marijuana facilities permitted and sets up a regulatory and licensing process similar to what is done for liquor licenses.
Five categories of facilities are allowed for all steps of marijuana production, including the selling of seeds, propagation, harvesting and processing, transporting, testing, delivery and sales. The state must still set up the licensing board, and the first applications won’t be accepted until the end of the year.
Municipalities can choose whether to allow facilities within their boundaries. If they allow any, the municipalities must adopt ordinances authorizing the facilities and where they can be located.
Municipalities allowing facilities can charge an annual fee of up to $5,000 to cover administrative and enforcement costs.
“The law is very flexible. A municipality can choose one type of facilty, all of them or none,” Rigterink said. “They have to look at what makes most sense for them. ... Communities could see some benefits from not only the annual fee they can charge, but also if a business moves into a blighted or vacant building and brings in more property tax revenue.”
Rigterink said the MSU Extension Service isn’t the only entity conducting workshops on the new laws. She said the Michigan Municipal League is looking to host educational programs in late spring and early summer for MML members.