City of Corunna

CORUNNA — An ordinance prohibiting recreational marijuana businesses within the city of Corunna failed Monday, leaving officials scrambling to determine their next move.

Under city charter, an ordinance must receive four votes to pass. On Monday, there were only four council members present, resulting in a 3-1 vote with council member Chuck Spring dissenting. Council member Helen Granger was absent due to illness, and a vacant seat still remains in the third ward.

Spring views recreational marijuana businesses as a financial opportunity.

“This is an economic decision that could bring business to our city before it brings business to other places,” Spring said. “If we miss on this, we miss just like we did with Owosso with the provisioning centers. I don’t want to lose again.

“Even if some of them move in here, purchase a building and the laws weren’t in place and they couldn’t have things set up in time, they’re still paying taxes,” Spring said.

The Owosso City Council passed an ordinance allowing medical marijuana dispensaries in July 2018. The city has a moratorium in place on recreational facilities until state rules are complete. The city of Perry has banned all marijuana businesses. The village of Chesaning has opted in and has several medical businesses in operation.

Corunna previously opted out of allowing medical marijuana businesses and under its current proposed ordinance would prohibit recreational marijuana related businesses within city limits.

For medical facilities, state law requires municipalities to take action to allow businesses.

In the case of recreational businesses, if the city does not make a decision by the end of the year, it automatically opts to allow them.

On June 3, the Corunna City Council voted 3-2 to move toward opting out of allowing recreational marijuana businesses, with Spring and Granger dissenting. In order to make the move official, the city needs to pass an ordinance, which requires a minimum of four votes.

There are only five council members, with a vacant seat up for election in November 2022. That makes passing a new ordinance more difficult, given that it would have to come via a 4-1 vote, at a minimum, according to City Manager Joe Sawyer.

The issue has taken on more urgency since Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on July 3 approved “emergency” rules regulating recreational facilities.

Sawyer said he will be looking into the temporary rules enacted by the state over the next few weeks in order to develop a presentation for the council.

“Clearly we have at least one, if not two, council members, and I think we have others, that are not necessarily in a position where they are saying, ‘Under no circumstances do we want to have recreational businesses,’” Sawyer said. “Now that there have been temporary rules released, we can do a review of that and we can give a better report to them saying, ‘If you do nothing, here’s what’s allowed.’ Because before we didn’t even know that. We couldn’t even say. It would be a free-for-all subject to regulations that had not yet been drafted.

“It’s not all or nothing,” he continued. “It’s not either yes, you allow it or no, you don’t. The rules will allow us to set certain parameters and requirements, so once we understand what the state currently allows, the council may look at it and say ‘Hey we’re fine with it.’ They may say ‘We feel comfortable with the rules, but we only want a certain number of establishments.’”

Sawyer said the council would also have the option to bring back the failed ordinance prohibiting recreational businesses, but the ordinance would have to be brought back to council by the prevailing side, which in this case would include Spring and, likely, Granger.

The temporary state rules will be in effect for six months, Sawyer said.

“The challenge is if somebody invests money, purchases real estate, starts a business and then these temporary rules are replaced, there will be future questions of are they then grandfathered in, or when the rules change, do they have to change,” Sawyer said.

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