Council takes action on 2 marijuana ordinance amendments

Marijuana grows at an indoor cannabis farm in Gardena, Calif. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

MANISTEE — With recreational marijuana now legalized in Michigan, municipalities throughout the state are increasingly talking about the potential impacts of the marijuana industry.

Tuesday’s regular Manistee City Council meeting featured a dynamic discussion regarding two medical and recreational marijuana ordinances.

Currently, the City of Manistee is reviewing applications from multiple marijuana businesses interested in opening up facilities in the Marijuana Sales Overlay district, located on Arthur Street.

The City of Manistee has opted in to allowing both medical and recreational marijuana sales. However, on Tuesday city council members voted on two ordinance amendments pertaining to medical marijuana provisioning center permits and recreational marijuana retailer licenses.

A SLEW OF APPLICANTS 

The first ordinance amendment, Ordinance 19-20 amending “Chapter 866 – Medical Marijuana Facilities,” was approved at a 4-3 vote.

While the medical marijuana ordinance permits three provisioning centers, state law allows a single business to operate both a provisioning center and recreational marijuana retailer at the same location. Thad Taylor, city manager, said three businesses could acquire all six provisioning center permits and marijuana retailer licenses.

With a surge of applicants before the city, the number of requests for provisioning center permits and retailer licenses will exceed what is currently authorized.

“You can co-located a medical marijuana provisioning center and a recreational marijuana retailer in the same building,” Taylor said. “In theory, one company could use up all of those six permits by co-locating.”

The ordinance amendment authorizes an unlimited number of provisioning center permits; however, Taylor said the amount of parcels available in the district is a limiting factor. The amendment limits the duration of a provisional permit to one year.

On Tuesday, council members Erin Pontiac, Chip Goodspeed and James Grabowski voted no. At first, council member Mick Szymanski suggested an alternative route, but he ended up casting a yes vote.

“My suggestion is, perhaps, unlimited may be sending the wrong message,” he said. “Three may not be the answer, it’s difficult to know. Perhaps a compromise would be that we limit it to four or five of each of the different (types).”

Currently, 10 applicants are seeking special use permits from the Manistee Planning Commission for potential marijuana businesses. If a special use permit is acquired, applicants must go through the city’s rigorous permit application process and then take on the state’s application process, before they can operate in Manistee.

They must satisfy all of the requirements before approved.

A public hearing was recently held, but decisions on the special use permits were tabled by the Planning Commission until the next regular meeting on Sept. 5.

“There are safeguards if council is worried about the quality of the operators or the business owners,” Taylor said. “We have a very comprehensive application that anyone who wants a city license or permit has to go through. It has to be completed to staff’s satisfaction before there would be a permit or license issued.

“Those have to be renewed, so if there’s something that happens that the city is not happy with, whether it’s how they operate or whatever it might be, it does not mean we have to renew that application.”

Mayor pro-tem Lynda Beaton said that voting down the amendment could prolong the process for many businesses.

“If we don’t pass this, then we have really set back the timeline for some of the businesses out there,” she said.

Szymanski agreed with Beaton.

“I would rather (approve) it as unlimited now and come back with an ordinance to readjust the numbers, rather than to stall the process that’s already started,” he said.

Pontiac agreed with Szymanski’s original proposal of approving a limited number of permits.

“I think us being elected to sit up here, we get to make the hard choices,” Pontiac said.

Beaton said she believes that, despite the heavy competition, an unlimited number of permits would be better all around.

“We really have no idea out of the 10 applicants that have applied for the special use permit who is going to be successful and who is not going to be successful,” she said. “(A limiting number) could completely destroy the whole concept of having the marijuana district to begin with. If we limit the number and they are not successful, I do not think anyone would want to do the investment.”

FACING THE UNKNOWN 

Eric Piedmonte, chief operations officer of Fresh Coast Provisioning LLC, who is seeking special use permits for marijuana facilities in Manistee, said he does not support the ordinance amendments.

“There are a current total of 10 applicants in the Marijuana (Sales) Overlay District, and with the proposed changes I presume there will be a few more in the near future,” he said. “With such close proximity there will be a race to the bottom. There will be a race to the bottom in terms of build out costs; there will be a race to the bottom in terms of supply chain and acquisition costs; and there will be a race to the bottom in terms of wages and staffing.”

Piedmonte said he believes allowing an unlimited number of permits could potentially compromise the city’s goal of bringing quality jobs to the area.

“These hyper-competitive conditions favor groups who cut corners, source poor quality or untested products, and groups that pay nonliving wages,” he said. “This is not what the city wants; the city wants jobs. But it’s not just about the quantity of jobs that matter, it’s about the quality jobs that matter. I believe this proposed amendment can compromise that.”

Ordinance 19-21 amending “Chapter 867 – Recreational Marijuana” was denied at a 4-3 vote. Goodspeed, Grabowski, Pontiac and Szymanski voted no.

Similar to Manistee’s medical marijuana ordinance, the recreational marijuana ordinance currently authorizes up to three marijuana retailers. The proposed amendment would have authorized an unlimited number of marijuana retailer licenses and microbusinesses.

Szymanski stated his reason for voting no on the recreational marijuana ordinance amendment.

“I still think that limiting these to five instead of three would justify both the competition and limit the amount of businesses, especially (with recreational marijuana) because this is really the new part of the business,” he said. “We have caretakers that have been growing and selling medical marijuana since 2012, maybe before, and basically the medicinal marijuana business is by prescription. Having a limited amount, again, it’s going to adjust itself.”

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Posted by Ashlyn Korienek

Ashlyn is the cops & courts and city reporter for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3109 or akorienek@pioneergroup.com

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