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SAGINAW, MI – Adult-use marijuana businesses are a step closer to reality in the City of Saginaw.

The Saginaw City Council initially opted out of Michigan’s recreational marijuana system in July 2019, but a “sunset clause” in the ordinance stipulated that the block on city-based marijuana businesses would automatically end in a year if the city took no further steps.

The Saginaw City Council voted in June to push back the “sunset clause” that would automatically repeal the ordinance blocking marijuana businesses from operating in the city, leaving the clause to take effect on Nov. 17.

The Saginaw City Council on Monday, Aug. 11, approved four ordinance changes to prepare for the introduction of recreational marijuana businesses

City Council members were given the opportunity to express their opinions on the changes before voting.

Council member John Milne expressed his concerns, including the purpose statement in the first ordinance that discusses topics such as marijuanas classification as a controlled substance and the intention to protect public health and safety through regulation and licensure.

“After reading this purpose statement, I fail to see how any public official could vote in favor of the introduction of this ordinance. It clearly states that we are discussing an illegal substance in attempt to put a patina of legality on it by covering it in minute regulations,” he said.

Council member Jamie Forbes expressed her approval of the ordinance changes while emphasizing social equity.

“Something that really matters to me in this ordinance is that local folks actually have a shot to benefit from this new industry,” she said.

The first ordinance change adds language for the licensing of marijuana establishments and business regulations to the City of Saginaw Code of Ordinances while the second change further defines issues and visitations related to the marijuana business, including sections on purpose, applicability, definitions, approval procedures, authorized establishments, consumption violations, penalties, and rights.

The two ordinance changes sparked a back-and-forth discussion between council members, particularly in regards to zoning issues.

City Manager Tim Morales explained to the council that the zoning regulations presented in the ordinance changes are as follows:

– 1000 feet from public/private K-12 schools.

– 250 feet from publicly owned park or playground.

– 100 feet from a church or place of worship.

– 500 feet from a hospital.

– 250 feet from a halfway house or other transitional housing.

– 500 feet of another marijuana business.

Forbes expressed her displeasure with the proposed zoning regulations and proposed loosening the regulations for certain facilities.

“I don’t necessarily see how it would be useful in the areas of growing, processing, and testing facilities,” she said. “All those facilities would not have a sign, they would not be open to the public in anyway, I don’t think that there’s any harm in having them nearer to each other than the rules that are in the ordinance.”

A motion by Forbes to revise the language in the ordinance to not require proximity rules for all facilities separate from provisioning centers failed after receiving no support from the council.

City Attorney Amy Lusk stated that the setback requirements were smaller than other communities and that there is an appeals option built into the ordinance.

Milne stated that he believed that the zoning regulations did not show respect to religious buildings and that he would have liked to see stricter regulations.

“I will simply suggest that we not approve the zoning ordinance which will have the same effect without showing our lack of respect for these houses of worship, many with Black pastors that have been very vocal opponents to recreational marijuana,” he said.

Council member Bill Ostash responded to Milne’s concern, citing the close proximity of liquor stores to area churches while commenting on the facades of marijuana facilities.

“In regards to what councilman Milne was just talking about with churches, I’d like to make references to Genesee, where a lot of the churches reside and also liquor stores,” he said. “I also would like to point out the fact that the marijuana facilities that I’m seeing around the state are a very beautiful facilities. These people that are in this business as well take it very seriously.”

A motion to approve the first ordinance change was passed 8-1 with Milne casting the lone opposing vote and the second ordinance passed 7-2 with Milne and Forbes casting no votes.

As for the last two changes, the third ordinance defines the prohibition of use or consumption of marijuana in a public place and related general offenses while the fourth adds languages pertaining to regulations on smoking in parks and general regulations. Both of these changes did not draw any discussion from the board and were passed without objections.

Click here to read the ordinances in their entirety.

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