Ferndale approves increase in number of marijuana retailers

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published June 27, 2021

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FERNDALE — Ferndale will be expanding the number of marijuana businesses allowed to operate in the city.

At its June 14 meeting, the Ferndale City Council in a 4-1 vote passed changes to the city ordinance to increase the total number of marijuana retailer permits from three to six.

The city had been discussing an increase in the number of permits for several months. There currently are seven businesses permitted to operate in Ferndale, including marijuana retailers, medical marijuana retailers, a safety compliance facility and a medical marijuana caregiver facility.

Councilman Greg Pawlica voted against the change. He felt the city has a precedent from six years ago where it started with three licenses and later increased the number to five.

Pawlica said he supported the increase in additional retail licenses, but he didn’t want to break a precedent that had been set.

“I really feel strongly that rather than change what we’ve already established, we’ve established the precedent of going from three to five,” he said. “I would support going to five retail licenses, but not six.”

Mayor Melanie Piana stated her appreciation for everyone who is seeking to establish a business or expand their presence in town.

“Council has received letters from businesses who would like us to expand and letters from businesses who don’t want us to expand,” she said. “It feels sometimes like a (no-win) situation.

Doug Mains, of the Honigman Law Firm, spoke during the comment portion of the public hearing. Representing local retailer LIV Cannabis, Mains said his client didn’t oppose the expansion of the number of facilities and welcomed competition. He did share their concern about “fundamental fairness” and ensuring there’s no negative consequences to the community.

“The three existing retail facilities in the city that are fully operational have spent months undergoing reporting requirements, inspection requirements, and through that process they were able to not only prove that they can operate within the bounds of not only state law, but also the local ordinance,” he said. “They were also (able) to show that they were able to operate without causing any sort of negative impacts on the surrounding areas and neighborhoods where those stores are operating.”

Mains continued to ask the council to consider the possibility of tabling the expansion until the city can see if it can handle additional facilities.

“What we ask at this point is for council to … use the study period to see what happens when it expands the number of operational facilities ... to make sure that that’s not going to cause any sort of nuisance or safety concerns or code enforcement concerns,” he said.

Piana said she was supportive of the increase to six permits and to see where it goes.

“I know that the pattern of safety issues with the Police Department and existing business hasn’t materialized,” she said. “That was a concern for council over the years and I think all the businesses that currently have licenses, retail licenses, have been exemplary, and if there are issues, they work directly with the city and our Police Department.”