by Karen Mead-Elford, co-editor

   The Owosso City Council voted for a one-year moratorium* on recreational marijuana facilities on Monday, Dec. 17 after diligent consideration had been initiated in the Monday, Dec. 3 council meeting. During the introductory discussion in early December, city manager Nathan Henne had offered an educational overview of Proposal 1 and explained potential effects in relation to the city. In his overview, Henne detailed that recreational marijuana use would be made legal as of Thursday, Dec. 6, and that this new law treats recreational marijuana use similarly to laws regulating alcohol consumption. Proposal 1 also mandates that the state has one year from the date it is made legal to develop rules for recreational marijuana facilities – and unlike medical marijuana regulations, municipalities are formally required to opt out if they decide they do not want facilities within their jurisdiction. If a municipality does not opt out, they are automatically opted in, without being allowed knowledge in advance of what rules the state may or may not put in place. In short, the city would lose out in adequately representing its constituents, after the majority had voted for Proposal 1 in November – essentially disallowing the city from having a fair voice regarding the people they are in office to serve.

   In his overview, Henne recommended to the council for an ordinance prohibiting recreational marijuana use in public places (similar to laws on alcohol) and for a moratorium prohibiting facilities from being established, all in an attempt to allow both the state and the city to logically prepare.

   After Henne’s recommendations, a lengthy and thorough discussion ensued during the Monday, Dec. 3 council meeting. Eventually council member Janae Fear stated a preference to garner perspective from the planning commission, particularly with all of that board’s prior experience is in relation to medical marijuana, deeming that experience essential for the council to move forward. Council member Dan Law seemed to agree, voicing that he thought further discussion should likely be postponed until the next council meeting to allow the planning commission time to provide further insight. Council then agreed to the postponement.

   The Owosso Planning Commission then met during a regularly monthly meeting on Monday, Dec. 10 to further deliberate on the recreational marijuana facilities issue. It is important to note that the moratorium has nothing to do with recreational marijuana usage. As of Thursday, Dec. 6, it became legal to “use, grow, and possess for any Michigan resident who is 21 years or older.” Fifty-eight percent of Owosso voters were for Proposal 1. The larger picture in connection to recreational marijuana facilities leads into the obvious question, discussed by both city council and the planning commission, of decisions yet to be made by the Michigan Dept. of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA). Essentially, until LARA establishes possible revisions connected to Proposal 1, a considerable amount of time, effort and money might potentially be wasted by council, minus the moratorium. Obviously, doing nothing would have automatically put the city in a position of having absolutely no control. The council and planning commission have both learned a great deal about LARA since medical marijuana went into effect in 2008, and as many realize, multiple revisions have since taken place since that time.

   During the planning commission meeting, planning commissioner/council member Dan Law explained that he was not fond of the word “moratorium,” fearing that some proponents might misconstrue city council’s intent in recognizing that voters did approve Proposal 1. Assistant city manager Amy Cyphert explained that the staff had initially “wanted to opt out,” but with the suggestion of the moratorium, which implies a temporary delay, individuals were more confident.

   Ultimately, the planning commission, acting as recommending body, moved to suggest that the council adopt the moratorium until LARA can step up in December 2019 with clearer state regulations on recreational marijuana establishments. The item was then moved back to council for the meeting on Monday, Dec. 20. More discussion continued amongst council members, with consideration given to correct and conscientious wording and choosing a time limit for the moratorium. Submissions for local applications for recreational marijuana facilities will be considered after the moratorium next year.

   It is distinctly probable that similar municipalities that automatically opt in or have already opted in will be at the mercy of revisions to be dictated by LARA.

*A moratorium is a temporary prohibition legally authorizing a period of delay around a particular activity or obligation.

Owosso Recreational Marijuana Facilities Moratorium Approved was last modified: December 24th, 2018 by Karen Elford