Saugatuck Township Board Move To Wait On Medical Marijuana Decision Until After November Election Raises Concerns For Local Operators/Businesses
Under the pressure of public inquiry, including concerns about lack of transparency, the Saugatuck Township Board decided earlier this month to ask its planning commission to re-open the public hearing on medical marijuana regulation as well as definitively answer the question as to why planners—already having drafted language to “opt-in”—decided to wait until after the Nov. 6 election to review and decide on a proposed ordinance.
The election comes with a ballot initiative to legalize recreational use of pot which, if approved by the majority of Michigan voters, will open the door for retail licenses.
Last week the Douglas City Council voted to opt-in and allow for medical facilities in certain zoning districts and very limited areas.
The Saugatuck City Planning Commission, in contrast, has recommended opting-out, but Saugatuck City Council members say they still want to further understand and discuss the issue.
To date, the Saugatuck Township Planning Commission has not re-opened that public discussion, but has communicated, via Saugatuck Township Zoning Administrator Steve Kushion, that it will continue to adhere to its position: “wait and see how the public votes on the ballot proposal.”
“By having the township wait to regulate it, that prevents any local operators from establishing their market now and grow their market,” Kalamazoo-based attorney Devin Loker, who specializes in the field, told The Local Observer.
If the recreational initiative passes, applicants who don’t already possess a medical marijuana license before the November election will not be eligible for a recreational license for two years, says Loker.
Furthermore, this gives an unfair advantage to those businesses which are not local but already possess a license and gotten that license from a municipality that has opted-in and passed regulations before the November election, noted Loker.
Saugatuck Township officials have also responded to the public scrutiny by hosting a Facebook poll asking residents to vote up or down the idea of having medical marijuana facilities in the township.
Local resident Tammy Jacobi, who is a licensed caregiver in the State of Michigan and helps folks get medical cards, spoke at the July 11 board meeting, questioning the township’s logic in postponing a decision and citing detrimental effects on local prospective businesses.
She wants to reopen her provisioning center, Good Intentions, which she closed seven years ago.
Also, Jacobi, like Cindy Osman—a local taxpayer spearheading a Nov. 6 recall initiative to vote out four of the five township board members—brought up concerns about the township’s failure to properly notice agendas and cancellations related to medical marijuana discussions and decisions. Township officials have denied any improprieties.
Although the planning commission has drafted language to “opt-in”— as allowed by the 2008 Michigan Medical Marijuana Act—and regulate medical pot by limiting provisioning centers to certain commercial zoning districts, the commission voted 4-1, at its June 25 meeting to wait after the election to make a final decision.
In a July 23 memo to the board, Saugatuck Township Zoning Administrator Steve Kushion, writes, in part, “The Board believed it was wise to wait and see how the public votes on the ballot proposal regarding the legalization of Marijuana, as well as giving both the City of Saugatuck and Douglas time to finish their public hearings regarding Medical Marijuana.
“The Board felt that there was no reason to rush into a public hearing for an ordinance that might have to be immediately amended after the election.”
Jacobi, who has been providing information to the planning commission and the township board for over a year regarding her plans, responded by noting, in part, “The township’s decision to ‘wait and see’ how the public votes for recreational marijuana use and how surrounding communities handle medical marijuana is an embarrassment.
“The planning commission has stated they may have to ‘immediately amend’ their ordinance should the Michigan recreational sales vote pass, but recreational sales won’t go into effect immediately and aren’t expected to go into effect until sometime later in 2019.”