Ypsilanti City Council agrees to moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries
Ypsilanti was arguably the first city in Michigan to see a medical marijuana dispensary open, but the city is saying no more for three months.
The Ypsilanti City Council voted 4-2 on Tuesday night to approve an emergency moratorium on business licenses for any new medical marijuana dispensaries or large-scale nurseries for the next 90 days.
City staff is in the process of figuring out how to zone medical marijuana-related businesses and what sort of regulations to enact. City officials say they want to have those guidelines in place before any new operations open up.
Tom Perkins | AnnArbor.com
The moratorium will become effective after the council’s second reading on Aug. 17, and it's only applicable to those seeking to open a business. City Attorney John Barr said it will not affect current businesses or caregivers and patients who grow marijuana in their homes while following state law.
A state-certified caregiver can grow up to 60 plants for five qualified patients, and an additional 12 if he or she is a patient. The plants must remain in a locked and secured room.
The rule also wouldn't affect retail shops that offer products for growing or ingesting marijuana.
Most municipalities are taking one of three approaches to regulating medical marijuana use and distribution - embracing the law, banning medical marijuana or seeking a middle ground.
Barr said the staff is looking at the many different ordinances municipalities have developed, and will likely make recommendations to the planning commission at its August meeting.
“The staff team is going to make some recommendation within 90 days,” Barr said. “They’re asking there to be a moratorium of permits to give them a little bit of breathing room until they can make it what we would like to do is have a unified ordinance and not have a lot of things change in the meantime.”
City Planner Teresa Gillotti said the concerns beyond zoning ordinances include code enforcement and whether, for example, someone has adequate electricity to run grow lights in their home and isn't presenting a public health risk.
She emphasized staff is not looking to ban the use or distribution of medical marijuana.
Ypsilanti’s 3rd Coast Compassion Center is the only large dispensary operating in the city. Darrell Stavros, a partner at 3rd Coast, said while a moratorium would benefit his business by keeping competitors out, he is against it.
He said 3rd Coast sees roughly 70-90 patients per day, and estimated 90 percent of them reside outside Ypsilanti. Stavros pointed out that creates more traffic through local businesses, and a moratorium would only serve to slow growth.
“I don’t want to see that happen, I want to see more businesses come to Ypsilanti,” he said, later adding he was also concerned the moratorium could affect patients and caregivers who operate out of their home.
Council Member Brian Robb has been active in seeking information on the issue. He voted against the moratorium and questioned whether the city could place a moratorium on issuing business licenses to pizza parlors or antique shops, to which Barr replied it could.
“I understand we are going to have to adapt to this, but I don’t want to taint the waters just yet,” Robb said before casting a "no" vote.
Tom Perkins is a freelance writer for AnnArbor.com. Reach the news desk at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2530.