The questions from trustees Jim Hanson and Chris Roerig, sent by Supervisor Bill Wester to township attorney Ron Bultje, were talked about at the Oct. 5 board meeting but were not released to the public. Wester cited attorney-client privilege in withholding the documents.
The questions were released after a Sentinel Freedom of Information Act request. The written answers were still withheld. Clerk Jane Wright also cited attorney-client privilege.
At its Oct. 5 meeting, the board decided not to enact a proposed medical marijuana ordinance.
A moratorium on new dispensaries has expired and the two facilities already in the township on Blue Star Highway can continue to operate unless they are shut down by the Allegan County prosecutor.
The board can bring back an ordinance if the state further clarifies what is allowed under the medical marijuana laws.
The planning commission recommended an ordinance that allows the sale of the drug from homes, not from commercial districts or traditional storefronts.
Wester sent questions about medical marijuana to the attorney before the board made its decision.
“We need direction here, however bear in mind it is my belief the state needs to clear this up rather than at the local level. The other dilemma being I am very much in favor of an issue the voters overwhelmingly voted in,” Wester wrote to attorney Bultje.
“Bear in mind we want to avoid any litigation as well as do what is right for our voters,” Wester said.
Hanson asked more than two dozen questions ranging from why the ordinance treats medical marijuana as a home occupation to whether the existing dispensaries are legal or illegal.
His last question: “What course of action will most protect the township against possible legal action?”
Roerig focused his five questions on the existing dispensaries.
“Are we in jeopardy of a legal challenge by the existing dispensaries if we change the zoning now, or are they grandfathered?” he asked.
“How long can we have a moratorium on this issue without legal challenge? Can a longer moratorium be justified based on the court findings?” was his last question.
Clerk Jane Wright and Treasurer Pat Knikelbine did not have questions attributed to them in the document.
The concern about lawsuits is not new to the township. It has spent thousands of dollars on legal bills linked to developer Aubrey McClendon. A federal judge is now considering a proposed consent agreement between the township and McClendon.
What was asked
Here are the questions, as provided by the township:
Below are multiple questions to the MMA issues we tabled, as well as extending the moratorium 30 more days.
We need direction here, however bear in mind it is my belief the state needs to clear this up rather than at the local level. The other dilemma being I am very much in favor of an issue the voters overwhelmingly voted in.
Possibly we could have a dual meeting next month. 1 meeting an hour earlier to have an open meeting in regard to Charter Township, then the normal 6 pm meeting to address MMA again.
Bear in mind we want to avoid any litigation as well as do what is right for our voters
JIM HANSON THOUGHTS
some of the following would probably be good questions:
What choices does the Board have now?
Are they limited to adopting this ordinance draft or doing nothing?
If we don’t adopt this ordinance draft, should we extend the moratorium?
What does the moratorium prevent, anyway?
If we do extend the moratorium, how long can we continue to extend it?
I have heard some jurisdictions have refused to adopt zoning rules on medical marijuana because the state law that makes it legal conflicts with federal law, is that a reasonable approach to take?
Is it likely that the entire medical marihuana state constitutional amendment and law will be declared illegal?
Did the recent McQueen decision make dispensaries illegal?
If it didn’t, then what did it do?
What are the issues currently before the courts regarding the MMMA?
What kind of court decisions on these issues would require the township to take additional regulatory action in its zoning ordinances?
Did the recent McQueen decision make any township regulation of medical marihuana unnecessary?
What was the status of the existing dispensaries with regard to township ordinances before the moratorium was passed — were they legal or were they illegal?
What was the status of the existing dispensaries with regard to township ordinances after the moratorium was passed — were they legal or were they illegal?
What would be the status of the dispensaries with regard to township ordinances if the ordinance draft were adopted — will they be legal or will they be illegal?
What should the township do about enforcement with regard to the dispensaries if the ordinance draft is adopted?
Are the existing dispensaries legal or illegal under state law?
If the existing dispensaries are not legal under state law, why isn’t the law being enforced at this time?
Why does the ordinance draft treat medical marihuana caregivers as a home occupation?
What are the differences between home occupation caregivers and dispensaries?
What does the MMMA say about home occupation caregivers and dispensaries, and what distinctions does it make between the two?
If marijuana is a legal drug, shouldn’t it be sold through the same methods that other legal drugs are sold?
What do we say to township residents who do not want medical marihuana caregivers in their neighborhood?
Why don’t we treat medical marihuana caregivers as a special approval use and decide, when they wish to open a facility, whether the location is appropriate for that use or not?
As our township attorney, what course of action would you recommend at this time?
What course of action will most protect the township against possible legal action?
Do we still need a zoning regulation if the courts have determined that the dispensaries are illegal?
Are we in jeopardy of a legal challenge by the existing dispensaries if we change the zoning now, or are they grandfathered?
If the existing dispensaries are grandfathered, does it make sense to zone future dispensaries to home occupational use or keep them in only where they exist now?
Should we be doing anything right now or waiting for the courts and state to determine if dispensaries can exist?
How long can we have a moratorium on this issue without legal challenge? Can a longer moratorium be justified based on the court findings?
William W. Wester Sr.