As new medical cannabis laws move into effect for the state of Michigan, many questions still remain on how best to address the many facets which affect cities choosing to allow such businesses within their borders. As the current laws leave much to be desired in terms of clarity, individual municipalities have been burdened with the nuanced decisions for specific regulations dictating the allowance of licensed cannabis companies. While this can be quite a relief for many who want more control over the institutions created in line with the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act (MCL 333.27101 et seq.), it also has created significant tension where public opinions are divided. One such prominent example is the case in Bay City where Mayor Kathleen Newsham vetoed an ordinance to allow commercial cannabis facilities within the city on Dec 21st. This came after the City Commission had passed the same proposal with a vote of 7-1 on the 18th. However, with a two-thirds vote the city commission can override the veto of the mayor, which is exactly what they proceeded to do. With an 8-1 vote of approval, the commission reinstated the previously approved ordinance on January 2nd of this year.
Mayor Newsham stated no feelings of disappointment exist over the decision, as she had only sought to urge greater levels of moderation and consideration before the proposal was passed. Previously having stated after her initial veto “I just think we need to revisit this. I’m not against facilities coming, but we need to look it over again.” The ordinance in question allows for up to 50 licenses to be issued for provisioning centers/dispensaries. These provisioning facilities are allowed to locate in any of the city’s business districts, but must be at least 50 feet from law enforcement centers, court facilities, and public safety centers like fire stations, etc. The ordinance had also previously been modified to create a 1,000 foot barrier around schools, but reduced the restriction around churches to only 100 feet. Much of Newsham’s concern had been regarding these prohibitive barriers size and the number of licenses issued. Her intent in vetoing was to force discussion to readdress expanding the barrier around such public centers to 500 feet and to decrease the number of issued licenses to ease into the new program carefully. This was met with immediate opposition as the commission approached their first meeting following the veto, wherein they subsequently reversed the mayor’s decision. Commissioner Ed Clements, of the 8th Ward, had previously stated his discontent and noted “investors aren’t going to wait around…” if there was a sense of indecision on the part of the ruling body in Bay City.
New license applications were available for pickup beginning on Wednesday, January 3rd and over 30 were requested that same day. It is unclear so far what types of businesses will be applied for as each 30 page application is the same format regardless of intended business type. The city ordinance in addition to the provisioning centers will allow up to 25 for each of the 3 classes for cultivator licenses. Secure Transporter, Safety Compliance Facilities, and Processors licenses will also be available for licensees to apply for. A non-refundable license application fee of $5,000 must be turned in with completed application paperwork for all license considerations. Additionally applicants must include water discharge permits, background checks and fingerprinting, site plan applications, building permits, and all other applicable municipal fees for permitting.
Regarding zoning for businesses considering locating in Bay City, all business districts are available for development for dispensaries, so long as the property meets the required distances from schools, police, fire, and other public safety centers. This will include the downtown area meaning that cannabis businesses may become a focal point of the city’s commerce and public appearance. Another of the Mayor’s concerns had been the issue of where such businesses can open and operate but as the ordinance has been approved such central locations are well within reason for the aspiring business owner to situate themselves at the forefront of commerce. Cultivations; however, are restricted to the industrial districts (M-1 and M-2). While there had been greater deliberation over the best location for different types of facilities prior to the recent vote by the commission, it seems these effects are now here to stay. It has yet to be seen how these changes will work in favor for the city, but with application fees alone it is expected that revenues will begin changing existing public opposition where it may still exist.