Berkley marijuana ordinance tabled to Dec. 16

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published December 10, 2019

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BERKLEY — The city of Berkley and its budding association with the marijuana businesses will have to wait just a bit longer.

The Berkley City Council tabled its ordinance regarding the local licensing regulations and operational standards for marijuana businesses at its Dec. 2 meeting. According to Daniel Hill, the administrative assistant to the city manager, this was due to the need for the prequalification subsection of the ordinance to be further rewritten.

“Currently, it states that all applicants must receive adult-use prequalification from (the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs),” he said in an email. “We are adjusting it to require applicants to have the prequalification appropriate for their application. In essence, medical applicants should have medical prequalification and adult-use applicants should have adult-use prequalification.”

Charles Murphy, an attorney who practices cannabis law, stated at the meeting that one of the steps in the ordinance — where it requires proof of adult-use prequalification status by the Michigan Marihuana Regulatory Agency of LARA under the Adult-Use Marihuana Establishments Emergency Rules — restricts the pool of qualified and compliant applicants.

Murphy said that many of the early medical marijuana licensees were people who had been operating unlawfully prior to the enactment of the medical marijuana statute, under which they were then licensed.

“If the city of Berkley … wants a pool of qualified applicants who are law-abiding and compliant and waited for the system to develop legally to choose from, we believe that that section should be amended,” he said. “Our suggestion is that you allow a process where it’s possible to get a city retail license and then have a certain period of time to become prequalified under the recreational statute, and that could be a period of months or a year. That’s fairly common in other cities that have required some type of prequalification under the medical marijuana statute.”

City Attorney John Staran said it was his understanding that having that prequalification requirement in the application was going to be more the norm than the exception in local ordinances, and that the new marijuana law says that, for the first two years after the state starts accepting applications, the only applicants who are going to be eligible to get retail licenses are going to be those who already have a state operating license under the Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act.

The city had a concern about processing applications from people who might not be able to get a state license for two years. The city’s idea was to have ready-to-go, licensed candidates they could consider during the first application cycle.

“That was really the concern, is if we take away that prequalification requirement, we might be getting a whole slew of applicants that, as a practical matter, they’re not going to be able to open for business for two more years,” Staran said.

City Manager Matt Baumgarten described the process that was proposed to council as one that did rely heavily on the scrutiny that the state puts forth for their applicants before they move to the city level. He said this could involve losing applicants after a lengthy state process, leading to a perpetual “next person on the list” type of cycle.

The City Council elected to table the entire ordinance until the Dec. 16 meeting, where the second reading will be held.

“We want to make sure that the wording on this is appropriate before we move forward,” Mayor Dan Terbrack said.

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