Ann Arbor Pauses on Marijuana Issues

At its April 2, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council considered three separate agenda items involving medical marijuana: (1) revisions to the city’s medical marijuana licensing ordinance; (2) direction to the city planning commission to make a recommendation on revisions to the city’s medical marijuana zoning ordinance; and (3) direction to the city attorney to delay enforcement action against those dispensaries for which the city’s medical marijuana licensing board has recommended licenses.

The council unanimously postponed consideration of the licensing ordinance revisions until the council’s second meeting in June – June 18.

The council approved the  resolution that gives direction to the planning commission to review the medical marijuana zoning ordinance, on a 9-1 vote.

The council tabled the resolution directing the city attorney to delay enforcement activities until the revisions to the local ordinances have been either adopted or rejected. The tabling was achieved on a 6-4 vote. Voting against the tabling were mayor John Hieftje, Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Margie Teall (Ward 4) and Mike Anglin (Ward 5). A tabled resolution will demise if it’s not brought back off the table in six months.

The board-recommended revisions to the medical marijuana licensing ordinance are laid out in detail in The Chronicle’s coverage of the medical marijuana licensing board’s Jan. 31, 2012 meeting. [.pdf of recommended licensing ordinance revisions] Representative of the revisions is a change that strikes the role of city staff in evaluating the completeness of a license application. The following phrase, for example, would be struck: “Following official confirmation by staff that the applicant has submitted a complete application …” The changes also establish a cap of 20 licenses, and grant the city council the ability to waive certain requirements. The power to grant a waiver to provisions in an ordinance through a simple resolution did not meet with a positive reception from several councilmembers, most notably Tony Derezinski (Ward 2).

The zoning ordinance revision recommended by the medical marijuana licensing board was not itself considered by the city council on April 2. Instead, the council considered a resolution directing the city planning commission to review the medical marijuana zoning ordinance, including the licensing board’s recommended change. The one board-recommended change is to strike the following sentence: “Medical marijuana dispensaries and medical marijuana cultivation facilities shall be operated in compliance with the MMMA (Michigan Medical Marijuana Act).” [.pdf of the recommended zoning ordinance change] Derezinski was the sole vote against giving the planning commission direction. He’s the council’s representative to the planning commission.

The tabled resolution to direct the city attorney to delay enforcement activity against dispensaries would have directed the city attorney to “… delay all enforcement activities against medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation facilities except for claims that they violate Section 5:50.1(3) of the City Code [zoning regulations], until the Council amends or rejects amendments to the zoning and licensing ordinances for medical marijuana.”

The resolution stemmed from recent action taken by the city attorney’s office, demanding that dispensaries submit additional details of their business operation, contending that such details were required in order to evaluate a dispensary’s  compliance with the MMMA. Dispensaries recommended for licenses by the board had already been required to submit a written explanation of their conformance with the MMMA. So the additional demand for information was not well-received by dispensary owners.

The general background of the current medical marijuana climate includes enactment of  two kinds of regulations for medical marijuana businesses last year, at the city council’s June 20, 2011 meeting. One piece of legislation established the zoning laws that apply to such businesses – establishing where medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation facilities could be located. The other piece of legislation established a process for granting licenses to medical marijuana dispensaries. Cultivation facilities are not required to be licensed.

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. Meeting Report: [link] Analysis of meeting issues: [link]