Ann Arbor City Council passed two amended ordinances at their meeting tonight regarding the regulation of zoning and licensing of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city, following over three months of deliberation and multiple revisions.
The ordinances passed in an 8-2 vote, and specifically set zoning boundaries and licensing guidelines that establish a maximum of 20 merchants to be allowed to sell medical marijuana in the first year, and call for an administrative board to be developed to grant further licenses in subsequent years. Additionally, three minor amendments to the ordinance were decided on at the meeting prior to the vote — including removal of a clause that required that all products to bare prices labels.
Before the vote, Dennis Hayes, an Ann Arbor attorney with a background in drug-related legalities, addressed the council and said that while he foresees the ordinance causing discord in the future, he is glad to see it finally passed.
“I believe that this is an area that will be in litigation, discussion, argument, fighting and disagreement for some time to come,” Hayes said. “I think it’s time to move forward, we’ve worked hard on this.”
At the meeting, there was extensive debate as to whether to grant an additional 30-day postponement on the vote. Democratic Mayor John Hieftje was a proponent of the extension, and said that while he planned to ultimately vote in favor of the amendment, he feared that the ordinance would eventually end up “right back in (councilmember’s) laps.”
“I’m not going to vote against this but I think it would be silly to vote on it tonight,” Hieftje said at the meeting.
Advocates of postponing the vote further said it would allow for additional amendments to be made which could potentially strengthen the ordinance, while opponents said delaying the vote could mean it would follow an upcoming deliberation within the state legislature regarding medical marijuana related issues in Michigan that could potentially alter the technicalities of the city’s ordinance in its current form.
City Council member Mike Anglin (D–Ward 5) echoed Hieftje’s sentiment, saying he felt it was too soon to vote on the ordinance and that he was concerned about the “black market” for marijuana occurring in Ann Arbor.
Unlike Hieftje and Anglin, councilmember Sandi Smith (D–Ward 1) pushed for a decision to be made, arguing that future amendments can still be made on the ordinance if needed.
“If we need to make adjustments later on we can do so, or the dispensaries can make adjustments so they’re in compliance,” Smith said.
Similarly, councilmember Sabra Briere (D–Ward 1) said she was ready for the council to vote on the ordinance, and proceeded to propose the three amendments that passed tonight. The final vote followed shortly after.
“Throughout this entire process it’s been eye opening to see what could happen and what has happened,” she said.