Kalamazoo hits pause on recreational marijuana

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Kalamazoo decided Monday not to start allowing recreational marijuana businesses quite yet.

In a unanimous vote, the Kalamazoo City Commission gave city staff a deadline of June 1, 2020 to bring them a completed opt-in ordinance.

“We have to do this as right as we possibly can and it’s important to not make equity just a word and that’s what it will be if we don’t take the opportunity to really dig in,” Commissioner Patrese Griffin said.

If the city had not moved by Nov. 1, it would have been automatically opted in to the state program. The idea of the extension is to give city staff time to get public input and work on zoning regulations as the state works out rules.

The state expects to start taking recreational marijuana licensing applications at the start of November. It is also working on a social equity program designed to assist “communities that have been disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition and enforcement” by helping them profit from recreational marijuana sales.

The program, which Kalamazoo commissioners were briefed on during a Monday afternoon work session, would cut fees for qualified applicants. Those applicants could receive an up to 60% discount on licensing fees, along with access to legal assistance seminars.

Anastasha Franco, the Social Equity Program representative with the Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency, said the number of communities was expanded to 41 last week.

Applicants who have lived in the listed communities for five continuous years can qualify for the initial 25% discount.

Residency is based on mailing address. A person could live in Kalamazoo Township but still qualify because their postal service address is Kalamazoo. The business would have to be in the city of Kalamazoo to qualify for the Social Equity Program.

If a person has had a marijuana-related conviction, they can receive an additional 25% discount unless the conviction is for distribution of a controlled substance to a minor.

Caregivers can also receive an additional 10% if they meet state requirements.

The state says requirements in the licensing process mean recreational businesses will not be able to operate anywhere in Michigan until early 2020. Each individual municipality can also exercise the right to opt out if its governing body makes the decision before Nov. 1.

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