KALAMAZOO, MI — Proposed ordinances for recreational marijuana businesses in Kalamazoo are moving forward on a schedule that could allow approval before the start of June.

The Kalamazoo City Commission met to talk about recreational marijuana businesses during a work session held virtually on Monday, April 27.

Kalamazoo City Planner Christina Anderson gave a presentation about the proposed city rules to start the meeting, and city commissioners asked questions and discussed how the issue has progressed to this point.

The proposals would authorize recreational marijuana businesses in the city and create zoning rules for the businesses. A social equity plan meant to help people disproportionately impacted by marijuana enforcement in the past is also part of the proposed ordinances.

View the three proposals below:

A live video of the meeting was played on Facebook Live and the city’s YouTube page. More than 40 people were watching on the city’s Facebook page as the meeting began.

Dorla Bonner, director of diversity, equity and inclusion, explained that the state requires certain communities including Kalamazoo to create a social equity policy, and Kalamazoo’s proposal is meant to help people who have been negatively impacted by the war on drugs in the past, and make it easier for them to enter the industry.

“We wanted to create a policy because we wanted to focus on our local disproportionately impacted neighborhoods and to reduce barriers to the industry,” Bonner said.

The city will charge marijuana businesses a $5,000 licensing fee. Annual license renewal will be required, according to a presentation given at the virtual meeting.

The social equity policy would give a 25% reduction in city license fee for businesses with 51% or more ownership by one or more people residing in city census tracts 1 (Eastside), 9, 10, (Edison), and 2.02, 3 (Northside); or owned by a city resident with a marijuana conviction that does not involve distribution to a minor. The city’s proposed policy would will give a 10% reduction in the license fee for registered primary caregivers, registered for at least two years between 2008 and 2017.

The proposal would designate 25% of fees and tax generated revenue toward programs including:

  • A business incubator to help people of color prepare for ownership/operations of future marijuana establishments
  • Community outreach and education on topics such as adult use marijuana, difference between state and federal laws concerning marijuana and adult use in general.
  • Support Shared Prosperity Kalamazoo priorities (Strong Youth, Strong Families, Good jobs)
  • Home ownership – Down payment assistance for those negatively impacted by the war on drugs
  • Blight Elimination

“When we look at the data, you know, point blank and period, the data reflects that the negatively impacted communities are that of African Americans and so, as we all know, with affirmative action being turned down in 2006, we legally are not allowed to say African Americans need to have majority ownership in order to receive these benefits, as a municipality,” Commissioner Eric Cunnignham said.

“So this was the city’s attempt to at least try to narrow down to our community’s most negatively impacted,” he said.

The proposed social equity plan also states, “When any person or entity receives more than $10,000 in contract value or benefit from the City, the City will require a good faith effort to hire employees with prior marijuana convictions or that live in Census Tracts 1 (Eastside); 9, 10 (Edison); or 2.02, 3 (Northside).”

Applicants must have a valid state license in place before getting the city license, which is issued annually, City Attorney Clyde Robinson said

The proposed zoning rules include spacing requirements for some of the categories of businesses, requiring some of the businesses to be spaced 500 feet from other marijuana businesses.

Related: Cannabis lounges, retail stores allowed in proposed Kalamazoo zoning

The social equity plan would allow more lenient spacing requirements for retailer businesses and mircobusinesses when the majority owner is either a past three-year resident of the specific census tracts in the city, or someone who has been convicted of a marijuana related crime besides distribution to a minor, Christina Anderson said, reducing the spacing requirement between other marijuana businesses from 500 feet down to 250 feet.

Commissioner Jack Urban asked about the impact of allowing businesses to locate closer than the 500-foot spacing requirement.

Mayor David Anderson said the proposal would allow some of the businesses to be spaced closer together, but it is not intended to create a concentration of marijuana businesses in specific parts of town. Residents who qualify for the social equity plan are not bound to locate their businesses in any specific neighborhoods, he said.

Urban said he agrees with the intent of the social equity plan.

The city will require businesses to file their own social equity plans with the city, and those plans and the business’ actions can be reviewed annually, Robinson said.

Event organizers and event licenses are not included in the proposed ordinance, Christina Anderson said. Robinson said the recommendation is that the city put that discussion off for later this year, or next year, noting some concerns related to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Talking about the crafting of the proposed recreational marijuana ordinances, Robinson said he expects more traffic at recreational marijuana facilities compared to medical marijuana facilities. That is one of the reasons for “a little bit of caution,” he said.

The city commission will review the proposed changes in May and the current timeline would allow for the ordinances to be in effect on May 28, Christina Anderson said.

The city played five comments from people who called in to a public comment line Monday, and commissioners took the time to address the comments.

The city of Kalamazoo is taking longer than other neighboring communities to allow recreational marijuana businesses to open. KKind, a recreational marijuana retailer in Kalamazoo Township and the first in the county, opened March 13.

Read more:

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Kalamazoo County now has 300 coronavirus cases


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