By Scott Sullivan
Hopes of parties who want to sell marijuana legally in Saugatuck may go to pot with the planning commission voting 4-3 Aug. 15 to recommend city council maintain its ban on medical and moratorium on recreational substance uses.
Still, burning questions remain. By law, the appointed commission advises and elected council has final say.
Planners, after reaching a general consensus at their July 18 meeting that facts regarding the medical benefits and emotional issues of allowing such uses were not their duty to evaluate, last week approved a draft ordinance recommending the moratorium/ban continue.
Members Dan Fox, Steeffaine Vlasity, Bill Hess and Richard Crawford approved it. Garnet Lewis, Kate McPolin and Marsha Casper were opposed.
Now the question is in council’s pipe to smoke. Should that body agree, at least medical marijuana users will not need to travel far.
Douglas has one provisioning center already open at 2918 Blue Star Hwy. and another preparing to nearby at 435 Blue Star Hwy. Both are in C-3 Commercial areas.
Saugatuck Township, which March 6 enacted regulations allowing medical marijuana to be grown on I-1 Industrial-zoned parcels and provisioning centers in C-3 Commercial Interchange zones (near I-196 Exits 36 and 41), has since granted approved uses for operations at both.
Recreational marijuana uses, legalized by Michigan voters last November, are under moratoriums while being studied, pending further state regulations, by each community.
Saugatuck last December opted out on all marijuana facilities while, like its neighbors, awaiting law clarifications from the state. Council asked the commission to study options under the new act, hold at least one public hearing to seek citizen input, then prepare a report recommendation for action by Dec. 30 this year.
A survey sent city residents this spring noted:
“The State of Michigan has legalized the sale of medical and recreational marijuana by legislation and referendum. Cities may choose to permit, limit or prohibit retail sales of recreational and/or medical marijuana within their boundaries.
“However, the state has imposed limitations. A retail outlet, whether medical or recreational, cannot be located within 1,000 feet of a school, and cannot be in a residential zone district.
“Consumption, that is by smoking, using edibles or tinctures, is not allowed in medical marihuana retail facilities. However, the state is still working on rules governing recreational marijuana retail establishments. It is likely that on-premise consumption will be allowed. Additional limitations can be found on the state website at michigan.gov/bmr.”
Planners July 18 discussed survey findings based on responses from 208 year-round residents, 112 part-time residents, 45 business owners, 43 property owners and 32 short-term rental owners.
They showed full-time residents support allowing retail medical and recreational uses more than their part-time peers. But a preponderance still have questions and concerns about allowing either or both within city boundaries.