Ah, spring has sprung at last in the Great Lakes State. If you’re like most Michiganders just out of hibernation, you’re anxious to get outside and plant your first garden. But this year, “outdoor gardening” has a whole new meaning.
Just last month, HB 4851 took effect, and the dream of lawfully cultivating outdoors became reality. Sort of. While allowing a plant to grow outside seems commonsensical in such an agricultural state, we must presume we will see the same aggressive law enforcement we have seen since 2008. Unfortunately, MMJ advocates, government officials and law enforcement have never managed to interpret the cannabis law with any consistency, and the uninformed or cavalier are likely to end up caught in one of the many new traps available to the outdoor grower. So, before you go tossing some Chemdawg seeds off your back patio, familiarize yourself with the rules.
First, there’s the law itself, which says cannabis grown outdoors must be locked, enclosed on all sides, anchored to the ground and accessible only to a patient or caregiver, not visible from an adjacent property when viewed at ground level or from a permanent structure, and on property owned or leased by the caregiver or patient. I paraphrased here, and I recommend you read the actual language, which is on the third page of HB4851 and can be found at www.legislature.michigan.gov.
Second are the local zoning ordinances. Although a municipality cannot outright prohibit a patient from growing medical cannabis, zoning codes—which generally allow cities to restrict where and when its residents do certain things—are the perfect place to suffocate MMJ cultivation. One problem is restricting the number of plants under home-based business codes. The main problems, however, are likely to be permitting what amounts to a new permanent structure in your back yard, and the as-yet-undefined requirement that cannabis cannot be visible when viewed from a permanent structure. Does this mean that if your neighbor can see your grow from their second-story window, you are breaking the law? A few of you unlucky people will likely end up as test cases for this one.
Then there’s your homeowners association document. Unless you live in a rural area, you are likely to be subject to strict rules adopted that prohibit everything from fences to pole barns.
And finally, let’s not forget the best things about growing outside: everyone will know about it. sticky-fingered teenagers, nosy neighbors and HEMP flyovers. Call me pessimistic, but between the sticky-fingered teenagers, the nosy neighbors and the HEMP flyovers, I think it’s just a matter of who is going to steal them first—the jerks with badges or the jerks without the badges.
Hey, I like the smell of fresh cut grass as much as the next person. But just in case that next person means Kentucky Blue instead of Permafrost or Ace of Spaces, please do your homework lest you end up in hot water instead of the pool.
Denise Pollicella, founder of Cannabis Attorneys of Mid-Michigan and a graduate of Wayne State University Law School, practices corporate law, business transactions and medical marihuana law in Livingston County. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.