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Royal Oak extending recreational marijuana opt-out period

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published December 23, 2019

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ROYAL OAK — On Dec. 16, the Royal Oak City Commission unanimously voted to extend its ban on recreational marijuana facilities in the city from Feb. 1, 2020, to June 1, 2020.

Members of the commission noted that the extension doesn’t mean that the city is against allowing such facilities in the city, but that it wants to fine-tune its framework for potentially allowing such establishments and incorporate residential feedback.

The approval was of a first reading of the extension of prohibition on adult use, or recreational, marijuana establishments. Interim City Manager and City Attorney David Gillam said he would provide a clarified timeline pertaining to the extension during the second reading of the extension, set for the Jan. 13 City Commission meeting.

On Nov. 12, 2018, the City Commission voted 4-3 to prohibit recreational marijuana establishments in the city with a sunset clause of Feb. 1, 2020. The vote took place six days after voters approved Proposal 1, or the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act.

While 55% of Michigan voters approved the regulation and taxation of recreational marijuana for those ages 21 and older, 70% of Royal Oak voters approved Proposal 1.

“Given the complexity of the issue we have to work through and do due diligence, I don’t think the Feb. 1 date will work,” Gillam said. “Anyone who has received approval from the state to have a license will be able to come to the city and commence operation by virtue of the fact that we don’t have a licensing mechanism in place. We need more time.”

The law pertaining to recreational marijuana requires that Michigan municipalities opt out if they do not want such activity in their jurisdiction. On the other hand, Gilliam said municipalities must opt in to medical marijuana facilities and, since Royal Oak has not done so, the conversation currently is focused on adult use marijuana.

City staff in the planning and legal departments have received correspondence from marijuana operators seeking to open their doors in Royal Oak.

The City Commission during its Jan. 13 meeting intends to set a date for a work session to iron out questions and issues about the topic of allowing recreational marijuana facilities in the city.

“I don’t feel comfortable with a Feb. 1 timeline right now,” Mayor Michael Fournier said. “We have a lot of great work done, a piece of clay, something to work with that the public needs to process and digest.”

The Planning Commission submitted a recommendation to the commission to amend the city’s zoning ordinance to allow for adult use marijuana facilities in two zoning districts: general industrial and general business.

Under the proposed zoning ordinance, such facilities would be allowed in a potential 19 sites throughout the city — 11 within the general business area on Woodward Avenue, and eight within the general industrial area.

The actual number would depend on the location of approved operators. Under the ordinance, marijuana facilities would not be allowed within 1,000 feet of a school. A 1,000-foot setback would be required between retailers, micro businesses and provision centers, but no setback would be required between growers and processors.

Fournier said that he did not want to see Woodward Avenue become a hub of marijuana establishments.

Commissioner Kyle DuBuc said he would like to keep moving forward with the process and encourage diversity in the industry, so the market isn’t saturated by huge players.

“We do want entrepreneurs and micro businesses to have a shot,” DuBuc said.

During the Dec. 16 meeting, the City Commission unanimously voted to postpone a vote on the recommendation from the Planning Commission regarding amendments to the zoning ordinance to allow for recreational marijuana establishments.

During the Nov. 12 Planning Commission meeting, Fournier said the city’s goal is to adopt a local licensing ordinance and a zoning ordinance at the same time. The hope is to do so in February.

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