KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kalamazoo City Commission has unanimously approved recreational use marijuana sales.

Commissioners approved new zoning rules and business regulations during a virtual meeting Monday evening.

The zoning regulations will require marijuana businesses to not operate within 1,000 feet of an existing K-12 school. The businesses may not be within 500 feet from playgrounds, childcare centers, public pools, or youth centers. The rules are in line with most other communities in the state that allow recreational sales.

Some residents believe the regulations do not do enough to protect children.

“Marijuana is in our community already,” one woman said during a phone message played during the time for public comment. “That doesn’t mean it has a place next to our kids. We are going too big and too fast with marijuana. I am concerned about our youth and the impact on public safety.”

The plan includes a social equity program, which provides discounts on licensing fees and other expenses for people who have been impacted negatively from laws criminalizing the use of marijuana.

During public comment, one man said he was concerned the program would allow too many businesses to operate.

“I think social equity is a very admirable thing and I’m in full support of social equity opportunity but creating an environment that results in oversaturation only diminishes the value of the social equity partnership,” he said.

Commissioner Eric Cunningham introduced an amendment to the social equity program that would require “an applicant or the majority of the applicants owners (to be) an African American city resident for the three years prior.”

The city attorney said previous U.S. Supreme Court decisions are clear that race cannot be included in this way and the language would open up the city to costly litigation. In the end, commissioners voted to not include the amendment, though they did approve the social equity program.

The zoning changes go into effect on May 28. The city will start accepting applications for adult use sale permits June 1. A provisioning center will need state and local approval before recreational sales can begin.

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