Sean Zerilli knew from his friends in California and Colorado that the medical marijuana business could reap some serious green.
That's why he opened Hydro Pros off 23 Mile near Seaden in a Chesterfield Township strip mall in February. Zerilli doesn't sell marijuana. He sells supplies so people can grow anything from tomatoes to pot, either hydroponically, which uses water and no soil, or organically, using soil.
"It's a good aspect of the business to get into because it's all legal," he said. "There is no gray area. In fact, about 35% of my business is from people trying to grow vegetables year 'round."
Zerilli isn't alone in his desire to cash in on medical marijuana. Another store, the Cultivation Station, recently expanded into the township. The Cultivation Station, which opened the first of its four stores in 1997 – well ahead of the 2008 referendum that legalized medical marijuana in the state – said business is brisk. The store sells growing supplies as well. It is illegal in Michigan to sell marijuana plants or seeds.
"It's been going very well," said Kevin Phillips, who owns Cultivation Station on Gratiot by 21 Mile with Robert Diefenderfer. "What we do is offer everything that you need. We are a one-stop shop."
Police seem fine with sales of growing supplies
Neither Phillips or Zerilli said they've experienced any blow-back from opening their stores in the township. There has been no run-ins with police, nasty neighbors or other issues.
"You can bring kids in this store," Phillips said. "It's a nice store."
Said Zerilli: "I'm not trying to be a cowboy in any way. I'm a firm believer in the law."
Chesterfield Township Police Chief Bruce Smith said he hasn't heard any complaints about either store. And he said the department has no plans to keep tabs on them.
"Are we watching them?" Smith said. "No. At least not more than we'd watch any other business. If all they sell is supplies, they are OK."
In 2008, Michigan voters approved a medical marijuana law. Under that law, people who get a doctor's approval can have up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana to treat conditions such as glaucoma and chronic pain. They are also required to get a card from the Michigan Department of Community Health.
In addition, under the law, licensed caregivers can grow up to 12 plants and sell marijuana to as many as five patients. More than 60,000 applications have been submitted to the state health department.
There are still questions and opposition to marijuana law
Exactly how and where caregivers can dispense medical marijuana is vague under the law.
Across the state, many local governments are exploring or enacting ordinances in attempts to ban or regulate dispensaries.
Township officials are mulling an amendment to the city's zoning ordinance, as it pertains to medical marijuana. On Nov. 1, officials passed a first reading of an ordinance amendment for medical marijuana uses. The purpose of the amendment, which could be adopted this month, is to regulate the distribution, consumption and growth of medical marijuana. It would also provide standards for registered caregivers.
"At this point, we'll let the ordinance stand," township Supervisor Mike Lovelock said.