Medical Marijuana Ordinances Voted On In Muskegon, Mayor Urges Patience From All Sides

Andrew Trzaska | March 12, 2011

Patience was the word stressed by Mayor Steve Warmington and several other members of Muskegon’s City Commission this week regarding recently-written medical marijuana ordinances.

At Tuesday’s commission meeting, the council discussed two amendments to ordinances regarding where medical marijuana-dispensing businesses are located and how they will be licensed.

Under the new regulations, facilities to grow medical marijuana in the city limits of Muskegon must be located in I-2 industrial zones, most of which are located on the outskirts of town far away from the majority of the city’s residential areas.

The new licensing regulations are in part to deter clusters of caregivers from pooling their residences and creating massive growing operations in residential areas.

Some proponents of medical marijuana usage have set up plant-growing operations in their houses because it is currently at issue where else they might be able to grow the plants allotted to them by the referendum passed in 2010.

When voting on the zoning and licensing ordinances, the council approved the amendments in a 6-1 vote.  Commissioner Clara Shepherd was the lone dissenting voice, and expressed her intentions at the very beginning of the meeting.

“It is not acceptable to me.”

These ordinances will see another final vote of approval at the next city commission meeting.

Those for the use of marijuana for medical purposes are not necessarily happy with the city commission’s votes, however.

Some see the I-2 designation as inviting more crime than it may deter.

Derek Antol, executive director of the Greater Michigan Compassion Club, said Tuesday night that growing marijuana in or near a caregiver’s home provides more security for the plants because I-2 areas are mostly empty at the end of the workday.

“Leaving crops in I-2 [zones] at night and going home invites break-ins.”

Commissioner Lawrence Spataro stressed that the city’s purpose in moving the plant growth to the industrial zones was not an issue of it being a drug, but using residential housing for non-residential purposes.

“If you are a patient and you are following the referendum, you are ok.  We would never allow intensive commercial use in a family house.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a beauty salon, growing in your basement or a backyard auto repair business”.

Commissioner Chris Carter maintained a stance he expressed first at Monday’s work session that the council must protect its people but also enforce laws that are delivered to them by the State.

“This ordinance is not perfect, but it is a starting point.  If we need to tweak it down the road, we may.  Caregivers need to be patient with us and give us a chance.”

Mayor Warmington noted that all parties, anti- and pro-medical marijuana, citizen and government, are on equal footing when it comes to knowing what will happen next with the law and its future.

“This is something that is new to everyone. Bear with us. This is new to you too.  We understand your needs but we are here to protect all of the community, and there will be a lot of questions to answer.”

Andrew Trzaska

103.7 “The Beat” – local government beat reporter and political analyst