Council holds discussion on recreational marijuana sales

This Aug. 15, 2019 file photo shows a marijuana plant in an indoor cannabis farm in Gardena, Calif. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

MANISTEE — Recreational marijuana has been a frequent topic of discussion by municipalities throughout Michigan over the past year.

For many, the discussion has just begun.

Continuing the conversation in Manistee, city council members will reconsider an ordinance amendment regarding recreational marijuana sales. Mayor pro-tem Lynda Beaton held a detailed discussion on a previously failed ordinance amendment at Tuesday’s work session.

The item will be put to a second vote on Sept. 17.

In August, council voted on two ordinance amendments pertaining to medical marijuana provisioning center permits and recreational marijuana retailer licenses.

The first ordinance amendment regarding medical marijuana was approved on a 4-3 vote. Council members Erin Pontiac, Chip Goodspeed and James Grabowski voted no.

The ordinance amendment allows for an unlimited number of medical marijuana provisioning center permits, but the amount of parcels available in the district is a limiting factor. It also limits the duration of a provisional permit to one year.

However, an ordinance amendment authorizing unlimited recreational marijuana retailer licenses and microbusinesses was denied 4-3. Goodspeed, Grabowski, Pontiac and council member Mick Szymanski voted no.

The city’s recreational marijuana ordinance currently authorizes up to three marijuana retailers.

“You probably might not be able to convince me on the number of licenses to be granted, but I do think that it’s time to revisit the ordinance on the number of recreational licenses in the city,” said Beaton. “I would like to bring that back before council. I think anywhere between five to seven licenses for that would be appropriate.”

The city is currently going through the process of determining special use permits for 11 proposed marijuana businesses. The Planning Commission tabled a decision on Sept. 5 regarding 10 of the special use permit applications. A final decision is slated for Sept. 19.

The businesses would be located in the Marijuana Sales Overlay district zoned on Arthur Street. In total, there are around 20 parcels of land in the district.

State officials will also begin processing recreational marijuana business license applications starting Nov. 1.

“The state will begin accepting applications for recreational marijuana in November,” Beaton said. “However, those that have medical provisioning licenses already will get preferential treatment over those that do not. They anticipate a big number, an avalanche of these requests.”

Beaton said at least three of the proposed businesses currently hold medical marijuana licenses. A majority of the businesses also plan to apply for both recreational and medical marijuana licenses.

“We have a small number of applicants that have applied in the marijuana district that hold marijuana licenses in the state,” she said.

Thad Taylor, city manager, added that most of the businesses going through the city’s special use permit process either hold a medical marijuana license, or they have been prequalified.

“I called the (Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs) and asked what’s the difference between having a medical marijuana license and being prequalified, and it just boils down to an inspection of the building,” Taylor said. “People who have a medical marijuana license operating in another community have been vetted, had their building inspected (in that community) and they get a license.

“The ones that have been prequalified have gone through all of the vetting, but the state has approved them short of inspecting their building.”

Obtaining a special use permit is only step one for the applicants. If a special use permit is acquired, applicants must go through the city’s rigorous application process and then take on the state’s, before they can operate in Manistee.

They must satisfy all of the requirements.

In debating the number of licenses, Szymanski said he believes recreational marijuana retailer licenses should not be unlimited.

“I still think that five microbusinesses and five retailer (licenses), with the unlimited medical (provisioning center permits) would pretty much fill up that section,” he said.

Beaton proposed a different number of licenses.

“I think seven would be better, there are 21 parcels out there,” she said.

The issue, however, will be further discussed by council at its upcoming meeting.

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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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