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June 16, 2019 7:11 am

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Douglas Council Makes Changes To Proposed Medical Marijuana Ordinance

Acknowledging that the newly Planning Commission-recommended medical marijuana regulation was “arbitrary” and too restrictive, the Douglas City Council last week modified the proposed ordinance language to allow more opportunities for provisioning centers and secure transportation businesses to open shop in the city.

Even with the change, however, the number of spots where this type of enterprises can operate in the city is very limited.

Douglas’ issue focuses on “local control” rather than risking “liability” related to state-wide laws and policies regulating medical marijuana facilities, meaning that the city intends to regulate through zoning restrictions as well as establishing a limit to the number of facilities.

“This is nation-wide phenomena (inquiries for medical marijuana-related business opportunities and their prospective clients); I get three calls minimum a week, sometimes two or three a day,” said Douglas Zoning Administrator Lisa Imus.

St. Joseph-based life partners and entrepreneurs Ethan Del Stone and David Setzke welcomed the changes implemented by Douglas last week.

They said the previously proposed regulation was “draconian,” as they sought business opportunities in Douglas.

“We are looking to be part of the community,” Setzke told council after the changes.

Across the bridge in the City of Saugatuck, their respective Planning Commission recently decided to “opt out” and not allow any type of facilities within the city’s boundaries; a preponderance of downtown businesses do not want them around, according to city officials.

And on the other neighboring municipality, Saugatuck Township officials there say they have tabled the issue until after the November election.

At its meeting last week, Douglas City Council held its first reading of the proposed regulation as recommended by the Planning Commission; the second and final approval process is expected to take place at the next regularly scheduled meeting next week.

Referring to the varied state-wide rules in combination with local rules, Douglas City Council Member Lisa Greenwood noted, “There are so many restrictions.” Douglas Mayor Linda Anderson chimed in, “It almost makes it impossible, might as well just say no (to medical marijuana facilities) if we are going to make it that restrictive.”

Imus confirmed to council, “Anything north of Wiley Road in the city will be taken out (of the possibility of housing a medical marijuana facility) because everything is a 500-foot setback from residents…(it would) not allowed because it is bounded by residents.”

And as far as south of Wiley Road, there were merely three sites where facilities could exist and more likely they are not for sale to prospective entrepreneurs in the industry, said Imus.

The Douglas City Council decided to change the 500-foot setback restriction to 50 feet of separation between a medical marijuana facility and residential zoning sites.
They also removed the 50-foot setback barrier limitation pertaining to non-conforming residential units (structures used as residential structures within C2 commercial zones that have been grandfathered in).

Furthermore, they said there would be no separation requirement whatsoever between facilities themselves.

However, council members decided to go with the Planning Commission’s recommendation limiting the number of facilities: two provisioning centers and two secure transportation facilities, citing they could possibly amend the ordinance in the future after “testing the waters.”

“It is a first-come, first-served basis,” said Anderson, adding that the city could not legally favor one particular business over another. “If they (facility applicants) comply with all ordinances—just like approving a site plan—we can’t deny it.”

Douglas Council Makes Changes To Proposed Medical Marijuana Ordinance

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