Waiting for state, cities hold off on Rx pot plans

Comstock Township Board
The Sept. 25, 2017 meeting of the Comstock Township Board, during which policy on medical marijuana dispensaries was discussed.

COMSTOCK TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Dozens of Michigan municipalities are in the process of deciding whether to allow medical marijuana to be grown, sold and taxed within their city limits. But the state hasn’t drafted the rules necessary to implement its newest medical marijuana law.

The state’s delay in drafting these rules has forced some cities, like Kalamazoo, to postpone consideration of their medical marijuana ordinances.

Under the new state law, cities can decide whether to allow people to open medical marijuana dispensaries, also known as provisioning centers. Now it’s up to Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) to draft rules that will help implement that law. But there’s a problem.

“What we’re finding out with these administrative rules is we’re running out of time,” said Catherine Kaufman, an attorney for Comstock Township.

That’s because the state will start accepting applications for medical marijuana licenses Dec. 15.

Kalamazoo was planning to consider an ordinance that would have allowed for up to seven medical marijuana dispensaries in the city. Leaders held a public forum in July for people who were interested in the city’s plans to legalize medical marijuana. But now that’s all on hold. Because of the delay in drafting the rules, Kalamazoo’s City Commission decided to postpone consideration of its medical marijuana ordinances.

Comstock Township held a special board meeting Monday to decide what to do about the situation.

“I think because of the increased uncertainty in what LARA’s administrative rules are going to require from the municipality, some that were on the fence are now backing off,” Kaufman, the attorney, said.

“It concerns me that we don’t have rules in place for LARA and it sounds like there might not be regulations in place starting in December other than emergency operating rules,” Comstock Township Board Member Michelle Mohney said.

Others agreed.

“I know the biggest thing in my mind is the fact that we have no rules from LARA to say what’s going to happen,” Comstock Township Supervisor Randy Thompson said.

In the end, the board directed the planning commission to draft an opt-in ordinance that the board will consider at a future meeting.

“All I can say is we’re kind of in flux right now,” Kaufman said. “Things keep changing.”

Kaufman said LARA will most likely implement emergency rules before the December deadline, but those will be subject to change once the final rules are written.