BALDWIN TOWNSHIP – A standing-room only crowd packed the Baldwin Township Hall last Thursday, as public hearings were held to consider three requests for special land use permits for proposed medical marijuana provisioning centers on US-23. 

Two requests were approved as submitted, and the third was conditionally approved subject to compliance with state and local regulations governing parking, accessibility, and location.

According to Zoning Administrator Mike Falle, the township’s ordinance allows a total of five such facilities in the community. With the recent opening of a marijuana provisioning center in the former Tawas Appliance building on US-23, the approvals bring the total of medical marijuana dispensaries in the township to four. 

All four facilities are located on US-23, all within one-half mile of each other. Planning Board Chairman Meyer said that the locations and proximity of these provisioning centers were permissible under the township ordinance.

Meyer added that a request for a fifth facility had previously been denied, both by the planning board and subsequently by the zoning board of appeals, as the application paperwork was not submitted on a timely basis.

Properties located at 1779 US-23, immediately to the northeast of Print ‘n Go, and 1790 US-23, currently occupied by Precious Petals, were approved to become provisioning centers without any special conditions for approval. Falle said that all requirements had been met for approval. However the property located at 1864 US-23, which is a three-suite office facility which houses Northern Michigan Drug Screening in Suite A, the former Schmidt and Palumbo law offices in Suite B, and Catholic Human Services in Suite C, faced additional scrutiny.

Residential neighbors and businesses near the proposed facility expressed concerns about the consequences of approval, as a day care center is located nearby. 

Questions were raised about the minimum number of parking spaces required by the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act (MMFLA). The building structure also came into question because internal access doors between the suites are not in compliance with the MMFLA.

The original application at 1864 US-23 included use of Suites A and B for the dispensary. However, Suite A is less than 300 feet from the day care center, which would automatically disqualify the facility under the Township ordinance. Consequently, the applicants amended their application to include Suite B only, which lies 304 feet from the day care facility.

Mike Bahoura, an Oakland County attorney who said he exclusively works in Cannabis licensing, attempted to reassure those in attendance. Medical marijuana, he said, “is the most heavily regulated business in the State.” 

Representing applicants for the 1790 US-23 property as well as the 1864 US-23 proposed facility, Bahoura detailed the requirements for qualification under the MMFLA. Security cameras must be placed no further than 20 feet apart, and must provide coverage of the entire facility, he said. He added that the dispensaries are subject to search at any time to ensure compliance with all regulations. 

Earlier in the meeting, members of the planning board confirmed that the other facilities requesting approval had alarm systems, locking safes, interior storage, filters, a minimum number of parking spaces based on square footage, and clearly defined hours of operation. Thorough background checks of all employees are required under state law.

The planning board approved the land use permit request, but only on the conditions that the owners must submit a parking plan, construct secure, solid interior walls to eliminate access from adjacent suites, and commit to using only Suite B for the dispensary. The board also advised the applicants that future expansion would not be approved if the expansion encroached into the 300 foot minimum distance from the day care center, as required by the township ordinance.