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Time’s Ticking

Michigan cities approve recreational cannabis regulations ahead of state license application period




City leaders in a number of Michigan’s cities are approving recreational cannabis regulations as the deadline looms for when state regulators begin accepting applications for licenses. Tipping the scales, 944 of Michigan’s 1,773 cities and townships notified state officials that they have opted out of allowing recreational cannabis in their jurisdictions, as of Oct. 11. That makes the list of communities that have opted out at over 53 percent. However, local jurisdictions must take the initiative and pass ordinances if they want to block recreational sales and production.

Recently, ordinances to allow for recreational sales or production in Muskegon, Battle Creek, Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids have been approved, and progress moves forward. In other cities such as Flint, efforts to establish moratoriums and block recreational sales have stalled as well.

On Sept. 24, the Muskegon City Commission voted 5-2 to approve an ordinance amending Section 2330 of city code that would allow for recreational cannabis businesses. While Muskegon’s recreational ordinance, like many other Michigan cities, mirrors its medical ordinance, a few changes were made, including the provision to extend the hours of operation from 7 p.m. to midnight. For the most part, Muskegon City Commissioners were heavily divided on issues, including whether or not to allow recreational businesses in the city’s designated medical cannabis district.

On Oct. 1, the Battle Creek City Commission approved Ordinance 14-2019 to amend city code to allow for recreational cannabis businesses, but that ordinance awaits a second reading in city hall. It would allow for grower, processor, transporter, retailer, safety compliance and microbusiness business licenses.

The Ann Arbor City Council voted 9-2 on Oct. 7 to give the final approval to Ordinance No. ORD-19-32 and ORD-19-31, establishing local recreational cannabis regulations. The new ordinances took effect Nov. 1, when state officials began accepting recreational license applications. “Ann Arbor has a long history of advocating for medical marijuana—since 1972, I believe,” Ann Arbor City Councilmember Ali Ramlawi told CULTURE, referring to the heavy influence of University of Michigan students and the city’s historic decriminalization ordinance passed in 1972.

Ramlawi said that the recreational ordinance is still in a “raw state” and that he expects several more amendments. He went on to explain that Michigan cities must preemptively opt out if they don’t want to participate in recreational cannabis sales. “The law goes into effect Nov. 1, so each city council in Michigan has to either opt out or be defaulted into opting in,” Ramlawi added.

On Oct. 8, the Grand Rapids City Commission approved an ordinance adopting Chapter 105 of Title VII of the City Code, allowing both medical and recreational cannabis businesses. Grand Rapids progress, however, isn’t as far along, as city officials still need to finalize the licensing process for recreational cannabis businesses. According to Grand Rapids Senior Planner Landon Bartley, the city’s recreational ordinance is designed to allow six months from the Nov. 1 application date before city officials start accepting any kind of license types.

Fortunately in Flint, a proposed ordinance, which would have blocked recreational cultivation, processing and retail businesses, failed to pass amid a divided Flint City Council vote. That means that Flint lost its chance to stall the recreational cannabis industry locally.

There are a number of additional cities that have either opted out or passed ordinances to allow for recreational cannabis sales. The list is constantly changing, so be sure to check the website for the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs for a revised list compiled by Bureau of Marijuana Regulation.