Ann Arbor Finally OKs Medical Marijuana

At its June 20, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council gave final approval to two city ordinances that ensconce medical marijuana businesses with local regulations.

One ordinance concerns zoning – legislation that stipulates where medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation facilities can set up business. And the second ordinance concerns licensing – a law that describes how a maximum of 20 licenses in the first year will be awarded, and how a licensing board will be set up to evaluate applications.

An effort led by Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2), mayor John Hieftje and city attorney Stephen Postema to postpone the votes – in light of a future expected court ruling – failed on two separate votes. The first vote on postponement was 3-7. Joining Hieftje and Rapundalo in voting for postponement was Marcia Higgins (Ward 4). On the second vote to postpone, Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) and Margie Teall (Ward 4) joined the side for postponement, but that left the measure with only five votes. Tony Derezinski (Ward 2) was absent from the meeting. Based on previous deliberations, he would likely have voted for the postponement.

The votes on both ordinances themselves were 8-2, with Higgins and Rapundalo dissenting.

Key features of the zoning ordinance include the requirement that medical marijuana dispensaries must be located in districts zoned as D (downtown), C (commercial), or M (manufacturing), or in PUD (planned unit development) districts where retail is permitted in the supplemental regulations. Medical marijuana cultivation facilities are only allowed in areas zoned as C (commercial), M (manufacturing), RE (research), or ORL (office/research/limited industrial). Medical marijuana businesses are prohibited in a 1000-foot buffer zone around schools.

Key features of the licensing ordinance include a limit of 20 total licenses for dispensaries in the first year – cultivation facilities are not licensed under the ordinance. The license applications will be processed by a five-member medical marijuana licensing board consisting of one member of the city council, one physician, and three other Ann Arbor residents. The license application requires proof of legal possession of the premises for which the license is sought. Licensed dispensaries are required to maintain records on patients for 30 days after marijuana is dispensed, and on cultivation sources for 60 days.

In an amendment to the licensing ordinance made by the council on June 20, a stipulation was eliminated that would have required dollar amounts to be included in medical marijuana package labeling. That amendment was not substantial enough to require the ordinance to undergo an additional reading and approval by the council.

The council’s work on the medical marijuana legislation dates at least as far back as June 7, 2011 2010, when it convened a closed session on the topic to discuss a city attorney’s memo dated May 28, 2010. The council convened another closed session on July 19, 2010, purportedly to discuss the same May 28, 2010 memo. The council did not publicly discuss the topic until Aug. 5, 2010, when it enacted a moratorium on the use of property in the city for medical marijuana businesses.

Dispensaries that were operating before the moratorium was enacted – and that were allowed under the moratorium to continue to operate – will  have a 60-day window within which they can apply for a license after the ordinance takes effect, which is 60 days from publication. Other dispensaries cannot apply until 75 days after the ordinance becomes effective.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link]