Residents will be able to buy recreational marijuana from licensed retailers in Michigan starting Monday, but they’ll have to travel a long way to visit one if they live in the Thumb.
According to the state’s Marijuana Regulatory Agency, as of Nov. 22, nearly every local government in St. Clair and Sanilac counties have opted out of the act established with the 2018 voter-OK’d initiative, effectively banning pot businesses. Most officials have said they didn’t want their communities to be the guinea pigs while the state developed clearer rules. Some said they didn’t want it in their towns at all.
But at least one may be on the verge of opting back in.
In Marine City, the planning commission is poised to look into potential setback and other zoning rules to determine where pot establishments could be located after a request from city commissioners in November.
“There is no mandate to have sales of recreational marijuana in Marine City,” said Joe Moran, chairman of the planning commission. “The voters passed the law allowing the recreational use, and if you look at the numbers that turned out to vote and the margin by which that passed, it was just under 25 percent.”
“Our attorney Robert Davis is supposed to get us information about the minimum setbacks,” Moran said last Monday. “Because we figured the first thing we need to do is see if we could fit a facility any place in this city. It’s such a small town, and when you look at the setbacks that are required from like residential areas schools and so forth, there might not be any room. But we’re still waiting.”
Despite the size of Marine City, the chairman did point to a few examples that may meet any future setback standards, such as main industrial areas or King Road. He said Parker Street my be too close to residential areas, but that the Kmart Plaza might “be far enough away.”
Once they’ve mapped out possible areas, they’ll take their findings back to the City Commission.
If there is room and commissioners request it, then Moran said they’ll address formally creating an ordinance to opt back in. He expected the process would likely move “at a snail’s pace,” he said, likely discussing it at their next planning meeting.
Marine City voted 1,022-653 supporting the recreational marijuana ballot initiative last year.
Moran and other officials have acknowledged that, but Moran said, “I’m not seeing a real ground swell of people that are wanting to do it.”
Who else has opted out — or rather, who else may opt back in?
In November, the only St. Clair County entity not on the opt-out list was Cottrellville Township.
Supervisor Mary Agnes Simons said that’s an oversight, and they hadn’t notified the state that they’d passed an ordinance opting out of rules for recreational pot business almost “right away” after the state initiative passed.
“It was thoroughly researched through our planning commission, and it was unanimous to send it as a suggestion to the township board that we opt out,” she said. “At least temporarily. It’s very possible that it could (come) back. But at this point, it’s dead in the water.”
Cottrellville voters only marginally supported the pot measure 812-734.
Simons attributed most of that to their population demographics, adding, “Most of our makeup is senior citizens” likely against the idea.
Unlike all the other communities to opt-out, the city of Port Huron put a July 1, 2020 sunset on their ban.
When it was approved by City Council members in September, many told city staff they wanted to see progress before then. Mayor Pro Tem Sherry Archibald had said she personally preferred administration “bring this back to council way sooner” to address opting in “at least for those parts we choose.”
No talk of recreational marijuana has returned to public meetings since.
In a Nov. 11 interview, City Manager James Freed, who’d previously said he expected Port Huron to “opt in to some degree,” wasn’t sure when it would, only adding “probably February.”
What should people know about the new recreational pot rules?
All of the three state-licensed retail shops, as of the week prior to Thanksgiving, are to be located in Ann Arbor, according to the MRA, and most of those were already-established medical marijuana providers. Several more are expected to be able to open within the next few weeks, though in larger metro areas an hour or more away from Port Huron.
The state began accepting retail applications earlier this fall after emergency rules were issued over the summer. A handful of other non-retail licenses have been issued additionally.
Recreational marijuana use is limited to adults aged 21 and over. Those purchasing pot can only have 2.5 ounces at a time.
For more on marijuana in the state or the Marijuana Regulatory Agency, visit www.michigan.com/lara.
Jackie Smith is the local government reporter for the Times Herald. Have questions or a story idea? Contact her at (810) 989-6270 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @Jackie20Smith.
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