Gun Plain plans to stay out of marijuana law

By: 
Daniel Pepper

After about a year of study, Gun Plain Township officials plan to say no to medical marijuana facilities in their jurisdiction.
Board members agreed Thursday, Nov. 2, to vote on a resolution in December saying the township would not participate in the system of medical marijuana facilities created by the state legislature.
Supervisor Mike VanDenBerg said, “The township has been working diligently over the last year, sending the planning commission to seminars and trainings.”
“I’ve gone to seminars. We had a public hearing, with 30 to 40 people.”
Board members reached a consensus at the meeting that the upshot of the information and a recommendation from the township planning commission not to participate added up to not participating in the process, which is still being outlined by state regulators.
The Michigan legislature passed Public Acts 281, 282 and 283 last year, which regulate the growth, processing and transport of medical marijuana and amend the voter-initiated Michigan Medical Marihuana Act—passed in 2008—to allow for other products using the more concentrated extracts from the marijuana plants.
Individual townships and cities are given the discretion under the state law to allow or not allow the businesses that produce or distribute the drug, which remains illegal for any purpose at the federal level.
The township passed a moratorium that came due Dec. 19 to allow officials to study and make a decision.
Gun Plain surveyed its residents and had over 300 people return answers.
“We did the survey and we had 175 no and 130 yes,” VanDenBerg said.
The supervisor said he saw the federal law, which treats marijuana as a dangerous drug illegal for any purpose, was important.
“It’s still against federal law,” VanDenBerg said. “You’d be aiding and abetting someone in the manufacture of marijuana, which could be a federal offense.”
He said  he couldn’t get any response as to whether elected officials who allowed medical marijuana would be exempt from liability in a crackdown.
The Obama Administration had publicly stated it wouldn’t spend federal resources to enforce federal marijuana laws in states which had voted differently, but the Trump Administration or a future president could change that decision at any time.
“The feds could come back at any point and enforce federal law,” VanDenBerg said.
The Allegan Board of Commissioners and Allegan County Sheriff were both against local jurisdictions participating in the medical marijuana system, VanDenBerg said.
“We heard a lot of testimony about the negative effects to having it here in the community,” VanDenBerg said.
“I’d really thank the planning commission because they went through a lot,” VanDenBerg said.
He did note a significant argument in favor, however.
“Our residents in 2008 did approve the medical marijuana ballot proposition,” VanDenBerg said. “That wasn’t close, it was 60 percent for.”
Township Trustee Jenann Pearson said, “I don’t think we can ignore that.”
Pearson said a family member with cancer had found marijuana helped her, but that the current system was too unsettled to feel good about the township joining in.
“I feel it’s too vague and too subject to change,” Pearson said. “I’m not saying I’m against it.
VanDenBerg said, “The current law hasn’t changed.
“People can still get medical marijuana under that system, there just won’t be any large operations here.”
The current medical marijuana setup allows people to grow it themselves or get it from designated caregivers.
Technically the board doesn’t have to do anything because the state system set up by the legislature requires jurisdictions to opt in to participate.
“Our lawyer’s recommendation is to pass a resolution,” VanDenBerg said. “Then if someone comes and inquires about opening one here, we can just send the resolution and it’s all very clear.”
He said that if something changed, the board could change its mind by a majority vote.
“We can always change our mind and do an ordinance where we opt in,” VanDenBerg said.

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