Commission Votes against Marijuana Revision

On a unanimous vote, the Ann Arbor planning commission recommended denial of a proposed change to the city’s zoning code for medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation facilities. The vote came at the end of the commission’s May 1, 2012 meeting.

The city’s medical marijuana licensing board had recommended one change – to strike the following sentence from the zoning ordinance: “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]

The board’s recommendation had been sent to Ann Arbor city council. But at their April 2, 2012 meeting, councilmembers voted 9-1 to instead direct the planning commission to review the medical marijuana zoning ordinance. The councilmember voting against that direction was Tony Derezinski (Ward 2), who also serves as a planning commissioner.

In a staff memo to planning commissioners, planning staff had recommended denial of the ordinance change. From the memo: “Without this provision in the City’s ordinance, there would be no way for staff to distinguish between a use legally allowed under the MMMA and a clearly illegal one. For instance, if the provision is removed, an applicant claiming to be a medical marijuana dispensary could comply with zoning, but actually be an illegal drug operation. Finally, keeping this provision in the list of requirements for the establishments for a medical marijuana dispensary or cultivation facility serves to clarify for potential applicants that the City will not approve a facility that is inconsistent with state law.”

There was only brief discussion of the resolution, and all commissioners seemed in agreement. Diane Giannola noted that if she were asked to insert the sentence, she’d argue that it wouldn’t be necessary – it’s implied that state law should be followed. But deleting the sentence would indicate that people don’t have to comply with state law, she said, and that bothered her. Evan Pratt said that leaving the sentence in place makes the ordinance less ambiguous.

Kevin McDonald of the city attorney’s staff was present at the meeting, but did not formally address the commission and was not asked any questions by commissioners.

Only one person spoke during the public hearing on the item. Dennis Hayes asked commissioners to remove the sentence from the ordinance – it’s inappropriate and unnecessary for zoning.

This proposed zoning ordinance change was one of three medical marijuana-related items that city council considered at its April 2 meeting. The other items were (1) revisions to the city’s medical marijuana licensing ordinance; and (2) 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 had unanimously postponed consideration of the licensing ordinance revisions until the council’s June 18 meeting.

And on a 6-4 vote, the council had tabled the resolution directing the city attorney to delay enforcement activities until the revisions to the local ordinances have been either adopted or rejected. A tabled resolution will demise if it’s not brought back off the table in six months.

For additional background, see Chronicle coverage: “Tension Grows in Medical Marijuana Debate,” and “Ann Arbor Marjiuana Licenses: Who Decides?

This brief was filed from the second-floor council chambers at city hall, 301 E. Huron St., where the planning commission holds its meetings. A more detailed report will follow: [link]