Corunna postpones marijuana decision one year

CORUNNA — The city is pumping the brakes on recreational marijuana businesses — at least for the time being.

Monday night, the city council unanimously voted to place a one-year moratorium on recreational businesses, temporarily banning the establishment of facilities.

The decision comes just weeks before the state begins accepting recreational business applications, slated for Nov. 1.

City Manager Joe Sawyer recommended the moratorium to the council, given that the state has yet to implement a permanent set of rules for recreational businesses.

“The challenge is without all the rules written, and new uses and new environments being created, that it’s hard to regulate when you don’t quite know what’s coming down,” Sawyer said. “At the same time, you don’t want people investing in a business because then you’re going to have challenges of grandfather clauses…If you don’t opt out and they create a new use and we didn’t specify that use so somebody does it…To come back and do it after the fact, they’ve already been licensed for it, so you get into the issues of grandfather clauses and eminent domain.”

For medical facilities, state law requires municipalities to take action to allow businesses or they are automatically banned.

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

Corunna previously opted out of allowing medical marijuana businesses, and on July 15, the council voted in favor of establishing an ordinance to prohibit recreational related business within city limits.

However, under city charter, an ordinance must receive four votes to pass. On July 15, there were only four council members present, resulting in a 3-1 vote with council member Chuck Spring dissenting. Council member Helen Granger, who would have provided a fifth vote, was absent due to illness, and a vacant seat still remains in the third ward.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer approved “emergency” rules regulating recreational facilities on July 3.

The rules create 10 licenses, including the same ones available for medical marijuana, plus five new licenses: event organizer, temporary marijuana event, designated consumption establishment (club), excess marijuana grower and microbusiness.

The temporary slate of rules are in effect for six months, according to City Assessor Merilee Lawson.

“When they came out with these emergency rules, they expanded even further and said ‘Well, we’re also going to allow someone to apply for a license in your community and be able to have a party tent, to have a marijuana-like party under licensing.’ They also expanded it to allow social smoking rooms. It really put total chaos on even the communities that would like to embrace it,” Lawson said. “If you asked us to write an ordinance right now I don’t even know where to begin.”

Lawson and Sawyer both recommended the council place a moratorium on recreational businesses for at least six months.

“For Joe and I, it’s not about wanting or not wanting,” Lawson said. “We’re making our recommendation to you based on the mess we have to deal with either way. We don’t know where to go yet without more clarity from the state, and without doing something, Nov. 1 they start issuing licenses and then you’re stuck with whatever they do.”

Although the moratorium is in place for one year, it can be lifted by the mayor or any two council members who wish to put recreational businesses back on the council agenda for consideration, according to Sawyer.

He added that at that point, the city would likely be establishing an ordinance, either opting out altogether or creating rules and regulations to allow recreational marijuana related businesses.

After the motion passed to establish the moratorium, Mayor Chuck Kerridge thanked his council members.

“I brought this to the table because I was getting nervous about this whole item,” Kerridge said. “Because of the state being a loose cannon right now, I felt as though it was getting too close to November and the council had not suggested anything. I decided I better do something. It’s better to do something like this and wait until the state has its ducks in a row.”

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