Marijuana worries neighbors in Tecumseh Township subdivision
Looking out from his second floor window into his neighbor’s yard, Tecumseh Township resident Tom Hodgman is able to count approximately 50 large marijuana plants growing openly outside, as a German Shepherd guard dog patrols the grounds.
Hodgman’s neighbor’s property is surrounded by a wooden fence, approximately six foot tall, that conceals the large growing operation but Hodgman said he is still concerned for his family’s safety. He contacted the local authorities, and the Lenawee County Sheriff Department told him the growing facility was in compliance with local ordinances for farming medical marijuana. Now Hodgman wants to start a petition to change the law, at least in Tecumseh Township.
“We need a law that bans the farming of medical marijuana in our neighborhoods,” he said. “The way the law stands now, you could have a farm like this next door to your home tomorrow. Your neighbor could go out and get a license, build a fence, install motion detectors, get a guard dog and grow marijuana right next door to you.”
Hodgman said his neighbors have been growing marijuana for some time, and that he had also contacted authorities in 2010 about the issue.
Lenawee County Sheriff Jack Welsh said he spoke with the drug enforcement OMNI unit lieutenant about the marijuana growing facility and was told the department inspected it in 2010 and as recently as last Friday, July 13.
“In 2010 they had talked to the prosecutor’s office and at that time there wasn’t enough clarity in the law to tell them to put a cover on it,” said Welsh. “So, basically, what he had was within the law.”
Since that time, Welsh said that the laws have been more defined, and the grower in Tecumseh Township has been notified to cover the grow operation.
“The prosecutor did tell our deputies that they do have to have a cover on it,” said Welsh, adding that a reasonable amount of time would be given for the grower to comply.
Whether a cover would be in accordance with the township’s building code is another subject altogether. Tecumseh Township Building Inspector, Harry Hutchison, said the grower can’t just throw a tarp over the fence or netting for a quick fix. They’d have to apply for and build an accessory structure, such as a greenhouse, with plastic that meets code.
Caregivers and card-holders are not required to be on a registry for law enforcement agency access with rights to privacy taken into consideration. The marijuana grower preferred to remain anonymous with concerns for his family and crop, but said he’s done everything the state and local law enforcement officers have asked and then some — adding his facility is locked with a guard dog, video surveillance and has motion detectors. He said his operation has been checked every year by the OMNI unit and he’s not had any issues. The legal caregiver emphasized that he is following the law as closely as possible and feels it’s unfortunate he’s looked on as being a bad neighbor. He said he’s supplying a legitimate medical need and following state law.
A loosely written Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, passed in 2008, has counties throughout the Great Lake states dealing with creating new regulations governing the growing and distribution of the plant while legal card-holders seek a safe way to acquire the herb without worry of prosecution.
[Marihuana, marijuana, and cannabis are the most common names and spelling for the plant. The state of Michigan uses “Marihuana.”]
Tecumseh Township, where Hodgman resides, has no ordinance or moratorium in place and according to Township supervisor Roy Schlegel the issue is being reviewed but there is “nothing in the works at this time.”
Recently, Clinton passed an ordinance that makes it illegal to possess medical marijuana in the village limits while the City of Tecumseh Planning Commission recommended last week to the City Council the passing of a Prohibited Use Ordinance that would possibly impact growing and distribution of marijuana for other than personal use by a legal Michigan Medical Marihuana Program card-holder.
The City of Tecumseh has not yet created an ordinance that specifically deals with regulating marijuana caregivers and growers but has a temporary moratorium on operating of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.
Further south, Raisin Township passed an ordinance in May that addresses the issue, stating a primary caregiver shall be listed under Home Occupation, an incidental and secondary use of a dwelling unit for business purposes. A Medical Marihuana Caregiving facility is currently open near the corner of Occidental Highway and Sutton Road.
The Michigan Medical Marihuana Act addresses the growing of marihuana and section 4 (a) states, in part, that a qualified patient may cultivate up to 12 marihuana plants kept in an enclosed, locked facility. It does not state specifically if marihuana may be grown outside.
The act clarifies (333.26423 Definitions) the meaning of “enclosed, locked facility” as a closet, room, or other enclosed area equipped with locks or other security devices that permit access only by a registered primary caregiver or registered qualifying patient.
“What constitutes a secure facility has been a subject of a lot of debate,” said Undersheriff James Anderson. “The problem is the act has so many questions along with it. There are so many questions yet to be answered and it’s got to be done via case law.”
The act further states that a patient may choose to have a registered caregiver who can grow their allotted 12 plants. The caregiver is allowed to grow marihuana for five patients and can have up to 2.5 usable ounces for each patient.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette issued a formal opinion (No. 7259), June, 2011, declaring there are only two legal ways patients can get access to medical marijuana in the state — they can either grow it for themselves or they can get it from a registered caregiver.
But Schuette said cooperatives where patients and caregivers jointly cultivate, store and share medical marijuana are not allowed under the state’s medical marijuana law.
Hodgman said he moved to Tecumseh Township from his home in New Jersey, just outside of New York, because he and his wife, Colleen, didn’t want to raise their two children in that type of environment. Now he’s concerned he’ll have to find another quaint little town to live in.
“We live in a lovely subdivision with beautiful big trees and well-kept yards,” Hodgman said. “Three of the houses surrounding the neighbors growing the marijuana have children under the age of 15. The plants grow up to eight feet tall and emit a terrible skunk odor that can be smelled throughout the neighborhood.”
He added that safety for his family, including two children, is a main concern as the growing facility was made to keep out late-night thieves who may try to walk through his yard to climb the fence and steal the pot. Tecumseh Police Chief Troy Stern said his department estimates each mature plant’s worth at $1,000 or more depending on the quality, with a single gram of marijuana “bud” fetching as much as $20 in a dispensary.
“We’ve run into several of these. This is not unusual under this new law,” said Welsh of medical marijuana growing facilities within the county. “It is frustrating for us. There are so many grey areas. That’s why we end up calling the prosecutor a lot on some of our cases.”