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A public hearing is scheduled for May 18 during the next City Commission meeting. If passed, the ordinance will take effect 10 days later.

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KALAMAZOO, MI (WKZO AM/FM) — Kalamazoo City Commissioners continued the discussion over crafting an adult-use recreational marijuana ordinance during a virtual meeting Monday night.

The first order of business in relation to the subject was a public hearing to discuss zoning changes related to the measure. The public hearing did not actually draw any comments from citizens.

Commissioners later voted in favor of accepting the ordinance changes, meaning that the new zoning laws will go into effect on May 14, ten days after the passage.

Following this zoning change, Commissioners discussed the proposed recreational marijuana ordinance that would allow the sales of recreational marijuana products within city limits. 

Previously, the Kalamazoo Planning Commission approved a first reading of the new zoning rules earlier this month, but the ordinance still needs the commission’s final vote of approval.

Last fall, commissioners decided to postpone the vote on allowing recreational marijuana businesses until June 1st at the latest. Officials wanted to wait and hear more opinions from the public and assess how other communities had found success with their rules.

The marijuana ordinance discussed Monday is the result of research by the Kalamazoo Planning Commission and other related entities, much of which was fielded through public workshops before and after the COVID-19 outbreak. Virtual meetings have been held ever since Governor Whitmer’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order was issued.

Monday, Kalamazoo Planner Christina Anderson gave a presentation to explain how each type of recreational license would be handled and what the requirements are.

Regardless of the license type, each business would need to have a state medical marijuana license to qualify. This requirement is only in effect until the end of 2021, and is in place to give protection to previously established businesses. 

Each license and business type also comes with its own set of zoning restrictions, including distances from establishments such as schools, liquor stores and other businesses.

Another requirement discussed, based on citizen input, is that certain businesses only operate on main streets as opposed to residential streets, unless specific circumstances apply.

Another factor is the Social Equity Piece, which is meant to disperse proceeds of recreational marijuana into areas that have been negatively impacted by marijuana prohibition.

The drafted social equity policy calls for using at least 25% of licensing fees and tax revenue to support entrepreneurship in communities of color, education programs, and efforts to reduce blight in Kalamazoo neighborhoods impacted by drug related violence.

This Social Equity program is the key difference between medical and recreational zoning laws in the city.

“We want to have a targeted focused on disproportionately impacted individuals, reduce their barriers into the industry, and provide funding for the development and activities that support our Shared Prosperity Kalamazoo [and] strength and diversity,” Kalamazoo Diversity Equity and Inclusion Director Dorla Bonner said. “Most of our goals are aligned with what we’re trying to do. This policy is going to apply to all marijuana licenses.”

Businesses operating under Social Equity would see slightly reduced zoning restrictions under some circumstances. 

During the last virtual town workshop meeting, City Attorney Clyde Robinson said that the city has consulted with industry leaders and other legalized municipalities for advice in the ordinances and social equity.

“My impression is that, with the possible exception of the City of Flint, none of them are as robust as the City of Kalamazoo’s,” Robinson said. “Based upon my review of various other Michigan municipalities that have opened themselves up to recreational marijuana, I don’t think their programs are as strong as ours.”

This new ordinance was ultimately accepted by the commissioners on the first read. A public hearing is scheduled for May 18 during the next City Commission meeting. If passed, the ordinance will take effect 10 days later on May 28.

A full list of different zoning regulations for each business type, as well as a map overlay and all related documents, can be viewed online at the City of Kalamazoo website.

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