OWOSSO — As of Tuesday, the city had yet to receive any applications for the four medical marijuana dispensary licenses it plans to award in a lottery drawing in June.
According to building official Brad Hissong, despite the lack of formal applications there has been interest.
“There have been a lot of people in here actually inquiring about them. A lot of pretty big companies that have been in here asking questions about how the process is going to work,” he said. “I think they think if they wait until the last minute the review process will be easier but that’s not the case. We are going to review each one of these applications thoroughly.”
He said potential investors and companies have been visiting his office to talk with city officials throughout May to make sure they have everything they need for their applications.
He expects a rush near the end of the 30-day window, May 30, and believes the city will have to conduct a lottery as planned.
If fewer than four qualified applicants meet the city’s and state’s guidelines when applying a lottery will not take place, and the applicants will be awarded a license to operate a medical marijuana facility in the city if they meet the requirements.
At the council’s April 15 meeting, members set a 30-day window from May 1 to May 30 for people to submit applications for medical marijuana provisioning center licenses. The city plans to allow up to four licenses.
After the 30-day window, the application process will close and there will be a lottery drawing June 13 to determine who receives the licenses.
An applicant can only apply for one provisioning center license to prevent them from monopolizing the market.
According to city manager Nathan Henne, the applicants must have pre-approval from the state.
Licensing at the state level is handled by the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA).
LARA has created guidelines for who can apply. Among other things, to apply for a provisioning center license at the state level an applicant has to be 21, a non-felon and have demonstrated the financial capability of starting and maintaining the business.
The pre-approval process includes a background check of the applicant and all investors.
The city’s lottery process was delayed last year while officials determined zoning ordinances for marijuana establishments.
At its March 18 meeting, the Owosso city council set the parameters for where a marijuana provisioning center can be located.
The guidelines are that a provisioning center:
n May not be located within 200 feet of the real property comprising or used by a public or private elementary, vocational or secondary school.
n May not be located within 100 feet of a residentially zoned structure.
n May not be located within 100 feet of a vacant residentially zoned parcel.
Besides awarding licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries the city has also taken action in recent weeks on recreational marijuana.
At its May 6 meeting, the council approved an amendment to the city’s public nuisance ordinance that makes consuming marijuana in public illegal, but allows possession and consumption on private property.
The amendment, which passed after a public hearing during which no one spoke, also made purchasing and possessing certain paraphernalia, including marijuana pipes, legal.
According to Henne, the goal of the amendment was to make sure people aren’t using marijuana in a public space.
With the passage of the amendment, the council effectively decriminalized marijuana possession and consumption within the city, as long as it is not in one of several defined “public places.” Within the city, it’s legal to possess up to 10 ounces of marijuana in a person’s home and have up to 12 marijuana plants.