Kalamazoo seeks public say in Rx marijuana rules

Ordinance would set regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries in city

In this Sept. 15, 2015 file photo, marijuana plants with their buds covered in white crystals grow at the Ataraxia medical marijuana cultivation center in Albion, Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)


KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Kalamazoo residents will have a chance this week to see and comment on how the city will regulate — and tax — medical marijuana.

Public forums on the matter are planned for Wednesday evening and Thursday afternoon at City Hall.

In November of 2012, Kalamazoo voters overwhelming approved an amendment to the city charter allowing medical marijuana dispensaries. Two months later, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled them illegal. Then last fall, the governor signed a bill making them legal again and now the city has to figure out how it will regulate them.

“I don’t think a week has gone by without someone calling my office (saying), ‘What’s the city of Kalamazoo going to do?’” Clyde Robinson, the city attorney for Kalamazoo, told 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday.

City staff is proposing an ordinance that complies with state law and what the voters wanted.

“We’re going to certainly give service to that charter amendment because there were some good ideas in there in terms of hours of operation, separation distances and the like,” Robinson said.

The proposal calls for a total of seven dispensaries, referred to as “provision centers.” Three would be run by people who are either patients or care providers, as called for by the voters, and four would be up for grabs to anyone who can meet the requirements.

“They will be limited by the market and by the number of areas in the city where they can lawfully locate,” Robinson said. “That’s part of the reason for having the forums is to have some feedback. I imagine there’s some people who think that number is too low and maybe folks that think that’s too many.”

The ordinance also stipulates that the businesses have security systems, odor control and waste procedures in place.

The city attorney says the ordinance has nothing to do with whether medical marijuana should be legally available.

“There was a presentation by the county prosecutor a couple of weeks ago and he said he’s neutral on it,” Robinson said. “Our attempt here is not to necessarily make a value judgement. It’s dealing with this is what the state legislature says is the law, what are we going to do to comply with it?”

There’s also money at stake. Robinson said an estimate of tax revenue to the city is about $75,000 to start.

David Crocker is a doctor who owns a Michigan Holistic Health, which helps people get the medical marijuana cards required by the state.

“We’ve advocated for dispensaries for a long time because they offer a concentrated area of marijuana activity that can be easily taxed and regulated and overseen,” Crocker said.

Crocker, who also sits on the state’s Medical Marihuana Review Panel, said he is generally happy with what he has heard from the city.

“I think if you open your ears and mind to the people that are actually familiar with marijuana and how it works from the beginning, then it will go a lot smoother and it’ll actually make for much more functional program,” he said. “I’m going to suggest, No. 1, that they listen to people that are already in the movement.”

Robinson said he expects many of those people who show up to public meetings will be those interested in the medical marijuana industry, but he hopes all interested parties will offer input.

“The cement is still wet,” he said. “These are just proposals. They are subject to change before they go before the planning commission and the city commission.”

The city hopes to have an ordinance in place well before Dec. 15, when the state begins licensing medical marijuana facilities including dispensaries, growers, transporters and testing facilities.

The situation could change if a proposal ends up on the November ballot calling for legalization of marijuana, be it recreational or medical.

The map shows the number of patients with medical marijuana licenses in the fiscal year 2016, according to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. It also shows the percentage of the total county population in 2016 with medical marijuana license.