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Michigan News - October 2019

Flint City Council Votes No to Adult-Use Businesses

In a 6-0 vote (Councilman Mays later stated he meant to dissent) Flint City Council chose to approve the first reading of an ordinance amendment to prohibit all adult-use marijuana businesses from the city.  This would include marijuana growers, safety compliance facilities, processors, micro-businesses, retailers, event organizers, secure transporters, designated consumption establishments, and temporary events, essentially all legal recreational marijuana-related business.

Councilwoman Monica Galloway cited concerns about allowing legal recreational marijuana businesses in her city, “I don’t want to walk into a restaurant with my grandbaby and have him smell marijuana.”

But not all of Flint’s council shares her opinion.  Councilman Eric Mays demands a more detailed ordinance be brought forth.  Voicing his support for adult-use establishments in Flint he quipped, “This isn’t the land of Mormons.”

With more than half the states voters choosing to approve the legalization of recreational marijuana and marijuana businesses, and the financially struggling Flint having been named one of the now forty one communities to receive reduced fees for owners under the social equity clause, many residents question the decision, and reasoning.

Flint City Council is expected to take up the issue once again on October 14, as the November 1st deadline to ‘opt out’ draws near.

Grand Rapids City Commission Decides on Park Proximity Waivers

Six medical marijuana facilities applied for waivers which would allow them to open near city parks, two of them denied.  Grand Rapids has an ordinance that requires a 1,000-foot separation between potential medical marijuana establishments and park spaces.  Taking into consideration community feedback, distance, parking, and possible barriers between the park and facility, the commission discussed and decided on a case by case basis.

Commissioner Joseph D. Jones voted in opposition to five of the six waivers based on race, taking into account that only one proposal had significant ownership by an African American or Latino.  In his own words, “We have very little to do with who is positioned to have ownership and to prosper economically from this.  But that’s always been an issue for me. ... This is an opportunity where we have a say in the decision.”

Grand Rapids has approved over 10 medical facilities with dozens more awaiting the thumbs up.  However, due to the spacing clause in their ordinance, each new approval could void another application for being too close to that new facility.

Social Equity, Record Expungement Concerns Delay Muskegon Rec Approval

Adult-Use marijuana businesses may exist in Muskegon as soon as 2020, pending city commissioners debate of two new acts, which met immediate opposition, delaying approval.

After a powerful interchange, city commissioners were unable to reach a majority decision on two recreational motions.  The ordinance that would allow adult-use businesses to open in Muskegon resulted in a 5-2 split, and the amendment to permit recreational sales in the city’s special medical marijuana district ended in a 4-3 vote.  The city currently has two medical provisioning centers who operate within this special zone, Park Place Provisioning and Bella Sol Wellness, who would have first access to adult-use licensing.

Social equity and record expungement weighed heavily on the minds of the opposing commissioners while considering their vote.  Debra Warren expressed support for recreational cannabis but voted no because she feels the states social equity program does not go far enough, as well as citing Michigan’s slow pace to clear criminal records.  She went on to say she was disappointed that city staff did not have a plan to help people negatively impacted by prohibition.  Her fellow member, Willie German, who also voted no, shared her concerns.  Mike Franzak, Muskegon City Planner, stated he was unaware of the commission’s desire to create their own social equity program, believing that the state’s existing social equity plan would satisfy Warren and German’s previous demands for social equity.

Both measures, having not been decided unanimously, will be taken up and read again at a future meeting.

Adult-Use Cannabis Gets the Green Light in Ypsi

Ypsilanti City Council approved a comprehensive adult-use ordinance in September, giving the go ahead to recreational marijuana.  Purposefully designed for flexibility and with a broad reach, it will allow them to adjust for future changes in the markets or state laws.  Arguments for both sides were heard before the council reached their decision.

Mayor Pro Tempore (stand-in Mayor) Lois Richardson moved from her chair to the audience to speak as a common resident, “I would like this council to stop and think what they really want this city to look like.”  Explaining that she is not opposed to recreational marijuana on moral grounds, it was a matter of not thinking it a good idea to opt in before the state has finalized the regulations.

After just one reading the measure officially passed in a 7-1 vote, Richardson the only one opposed.  Ypsilanti will grant ten permits for recreational cannabis shops, seven of which will be held for pre-existing medicinal establishments.

Ypsilanti’s new ordinance includes the most expansive social equity measures in the state of Michigan, according to Councilwoman Annie Somerville.  With mandates such as holding the three remaining permits for social equity applicants, devoting $1,000 from every permit fee toward education and outreach regarding criminal justice and the war on drugs, a call on business owners with $10,000 in city contracts to specifically hire employees who have been adversely impacted by prohibition with a goal of 25% of employees being low-income or Ypsilanti residents, and removing cannabis drug tests from city employees with non-safety sensitive jobs.

Despite Sommerville’s assessment, some residents pointed out that none of the seven medical provisioning center owners are African-American, and asked the council to take into account how the war on drugs and the medicinal marijuana industry has affected the African American community.  They argued that the states social equity program falls short by taking into account poverty level and marijuana convictions but not including race or ethnicity.

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