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Allegan County Creates New Task Force To Look At Recent Medical Marijuana Explosion, Safety Issues

     The recent explosion of a storage unit housing a medical marijuana grow operation in Hamilton that injured one man and damaged several buildings, prompted Allegan County officials to create a special task force to investigate the causes and  impacts of the incident and recommend regulation to “enhance public health and safety.”
        That message came from Allegan County Commissioner Dean Kapenga who reported on the new task force to the Douglas City Council at its Monday meeting.
        “Microbreweries have all this regulation, but this industry (medical marijuana) doesn’t have that. How did that gap (in regulation) happen?” said Kapenga.
        The task force also will be reviewing local ordinances to see how they measure up vis-à-vis state and federal regulations.
        In May 2013, the City of the Village of Douglas was the first and only municipality in the Tri-Community at this point (Tri-Community includes Douglas, City of Saugatuck and Saugatuck Township) to establish medical marijuana regulations through a land-use ordinance, in accordance with the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act of 2008.
        “The concussion affected a 15-mile radius,” said Kapenga about the December 3 explosion at 349 60th Street,” noted Kapenga.
        He said it was so powerful that it shifted and severely compromised the trusses of a nearby house, displacing the family that lived there.
        The incident injured one man, killed a dog and knocked down three structures of the storage unit complex.
        Kapenga said the cause was a leaking propane tank (medical marijuana growers use propane heaters to generate carbon dioxide for the grow rooms).
        According to the Allegan County Board of Commissioners, per the December 10 resolution creating the “Public Safety Task Force-Medical Marijuana Productions Facilities”, state, county and local government code enforcement officials “have identified gaps in the regulation of such facilities that pose continuing risks to the heath and safety of Allegan County residents caused by the installation of equipment used to manufacture concentrated medical marijuana substances.”
        The task force, states the resolution, will be in charge of probing the causes and impacts, looking into zoning and code reviews prior to incident, inventory the personal injury and property damage, and then recommend changes in existing law so as to enhance health and public safety.
        Kristopher TenHarmsel, the owner of the grow operation that exploded, told The Local Observer  Tuesday night,
        “I’m aware of the task force,” said TenHarmsel.
        “I think it could be a good thing if properly executed. We were as compliant with existing laws as we could be.”
        As for the incident, TenHarmsel said he has not violated the law.
        “There are no criminal charges. The state police have found no violations of the Michigan medical marijuana laws. At this point, I can’t comment on other pending investigation.
        “What I can say,” added TenHarmsel, “is the explosion was not caused by marijuana. It was a fault in the CO2 generating system. That is under investigation. There are no court cases pending that I am aware of thus far.”
        In its local ordinance for medical marijuana, Douglas created a medical marijuana overlay district within which registered primary caregivers will be able to operate.
        That overlay does not comprise residential neighborhoods; it comprises commercial zones along Blue Star Highway south of Center Street for the most part, and light industrial districts on the city’s south side.
   Saugatuck Township official have put the issue on the back burner, awaiting further legal clarity at the State of Michigan level, while their counterparts in Saugatuck have had little discussion over it.

Allegan County Creates New Task Force To Look At Recent Medical Marijuana Explosion, Safety Issues

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