The Lapeer Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) has scheduled a public hearing on Monday, November 27th at 6:30 p.m. to discuss a variance request from Calvin Butrus and Fadi Syoufjy. This request concerns a deviation from the city's existing zoning ordinance, specifically in terms of the minimum number of parking spaces required.
Located at 1428 Imlay City Road, the site in question is the former Lapeer Ultimate Linings property, which falls under the I-1 Industrial zone. This zoning is a prerequisite set by both the City of Lapeer and the State of Michigan for marijuana cultivation operations. The building on the property spans approximately 6,150 square feet.
Under the current ordinance, marijuana cultivation facilities are required to maintain a minimum of 15 parking spaces. However, the applicants, Butrus and Syoufjy, are seeking a reduction in this requirement, proposing to provide just six parking spaces, thereby requesting a waiver for nine of the stipulated spaces.
The ZBA encourages those with an interest in this matter to participate in the upcoming public hearing. The meeting will take place in the Commission chambers located on the second floor of Lapeer City Hall.
For those unable to attend, written comments are being accepted until 5 p.m. on November 27th. Correspondence should be directed to the Lapeer City Hall, specifically addressed to the Zoning Board of Appeals at 576 Liberty Park, Lapeer, MI 48446.
The Bad Axe City Council, in a significant move, recently approved the introduction of recreational marijuana facilities within the city limits. This decision marks Bad Axe as the first municipality in Huron County to endorse such establishments for recreational use, diverging from neighboring areas like Caseville and Oliver Township, which currently only sanction medical marijuana facilities.
Before the council's decision, Police Chief Shawn Webber, along with former Chief David Rothe, presented their findings from research initiated in March 2022. Webber emphasized the need for detailed ordinances to regulate what would be permissible within the city. He highlighted the potential economic benefits, noting that different license types, especially "retailer" and "micro business," could significantly contribute to municipal revenues. According to his research, each license could generate approximately $51,841 annually, a figure that has been increasing since 2019.
Webber also addressed public safety concerns. He referenced discussions with other municipalities like Bay County, indicating that there had been no notable rise in crime rates in areas with similar facilities. Most issues reported were related to retail fraud, and there was no increase in incidents of driving under the influence.
Webber expressed his support for the initiative, citing his research: "I personally am OK with it and I don't think it's going to increase our crime rates or cause us more work by any means."
The council also deliberated on the potential allocation of revenue generated from the marijuana ordinance. According to Webber, the funds would primarily support the police fund, which could indirectly benefit other city sectors through budget adjustments.
The motion passed with a 4-1 vote, with Councilmember Clark McKimmy opposing and Richard Peterson initially voting against it before opting to abstain, pending further information. Peterson's abstention raised questions about its legal validity.
McKimmy explained his opposition, stating he believed the decision should have been left to the city's voters.
With the council's approval, the city will now begin drafting an ordinance to regulate the operation of these facilities. This includes licensing processes and maintaining compliance with city regulations. City Manager Rebecca Bachman noted that, in collaboration with the planning commission, it could take six months or more to finalize the ordinance. A preliminary draft, informed by Webber's research and contributions from the city attorney, is already in progress and will soon be reviewed by the planning commission.
The Bad Axe City Council is set to make a pivotal decision regarding the approval of marijuana facilities within the city limits. This decision will be made during their meeting scheduled for Monday, November 20th at 6:30 p.m.
Discussions about amending the city's marijuana ordinance reemerged in early 2022. This was initiated by a decision of the city council, permitting then-Police Chief David Rothe and the current Police Chief Shawn Webber to study the approaches of other municipalities and areas in integrating marijuana facilities and businesses into their communities.
City Manager Rebecca Bachman highlighted the significance of this upcoming decision. "This is asking the council if they want to allow these establishments to come to the city of Bad Axe," she stated. Bachman also mentioned that a draft ordinance is prepared, but the council's approval is essential before moving forward with the planning commission.
The legalization of recreational marijuana in Michigan occurred in 2018, following the passage of Proposal 1. However, in Bad Axe, the proposal was narrowly defeated, with 541 votes against and 534 in favor. Similarly, the broader county mirrored this opposition, with 8,261 votes against and 5,479 in favor, except for the city of Caseville, which voted in favor of the ordinance (190-179).
Chief Webber shared insights from his research into other municipalities. He noted that tax revenue from marijuana facilities substantially exceeded that from other businesses. Regarding crime rates, Webber recalled conversations with officers from Bay County, where incidents related to marijuana facilities were minimal, described as a "small blip on their radar." He acknowledged a few break-ins at such facilities across Michigan but emphasized these were infrequent and did not significantly impact local crime rates.
Since the legalization in 2018, various locales such as the city of Caseville and Oliver Township have enacted medical marijuana ordinances. Sebewaing Township has an ordinance for growing. In contrast, the city of Bad Axe voted in 2019 to ban marijuana facilities, a stance it has reaffirmed twice since.
On November 8th, the Three Oaks Village Council, during its regular meeting, unanimously decided to implement a temporary halt on issuing new licenses, authorizations, and special land use permits related to the sale or dispensation of marijuana. This decision affects dispensaries, marijuana retailers, and similar businesses under Village Ordinances No. 219 and No. 221, as well as the Zoning Ordinance. The aim is to pause these activities while the village makes necessary adjustments to the relevant ordinances.
This moratorium, an amendment to Title 11 concerning Business Regulations, is scheduled to remain in effect until March 20th, 2024, at the latest. Village President Richard Smith clarified that this pause would apply to both retail license applications and special land use permits.
Council member Tyler Ream emphasized the purpose of this action, stating, “We’re taking a pause on accepting applications so that we can make a few tweaks to our ordinance.” To this, council member Joe Hinman added the importance of also considering zoning changes. Hinman, who previously expressed support for removing the cap on retail licenses, acknowledged that such changes require time to implement.
Smith suggested that the village might be ready to proceed with new regulations sooner than expected, possibly even as early as the following month, though this was speculative.
The ordinance amendment language highlights that currently, Three Oaks has one open license for a marijuana retailer/medical marijuana provisioning center under Village Ordinances No. 219 and No. 221. With multiple entities interested in this license, the village is reviewing and preparing to vote on significant amendments to these ordinances and the Village Zoning Ordinance. The amendments in consideration include, but are not limited to, the number of marijuana retailers and/or medical marijuana provisioning centers allowed to operate in the village. The decision to pause application acceptance is to ensure these matters are adequately resolved before proceeding with new applications under the said ordinances.
The Cannabis Regulatory Agency (CRA) of Michigan has recently announced the introduction of two new programs focused on supporting veterans in the state: Task Force 1620 and the Veteran Recognition Program. These initiatives are designed to aid Michigan’s veteran community in accessing cannabis and to highlight veteran-owned cannabis businesses within the state.
Task Force 1620 is a program that acknowledges CRA licensees who have established programs to offer safe and affordable cannabis access for veterans. This initiative is designed to connect Michigan’s veterans with cannabis retailers who are willing and able to assist. Retailers participating in Task Force 1620 have the autonomy to set the specifics of their veteran access program. This includes determining the maximum amount of cannabis donated or discounted per veteran, establishing eligibility criteria based on the percentage of disability, deciding on the frequency and quantity of donations, and setting the number of veterans included in the program.
Licensees who implement a veteran access program that offers cannabis to veterans at a discounted rate of 75-100% are eligible for Task Force 1620. Approved participants in this program will have their business information and details of their veteran access program published on the CRA’s webpage. Additionally, they will receive a seal that they can display at their facility, signifying their involvement and commitment to veteran support.
This program is available to all businesses licensed under both the Medical Marijuana Facility Licensing Act (MMFLA) and the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act (MRTMA). Importantly, to participate in Task Force 1620, a business does not need to be majority-owned by a veteran. Businesses interested in joining Task Force 1620 are encouraged to apply through the CRA website and can direct their questions to [email protected].
The Veteran Recognition Program (VRP) is another initiative by the CRA, focusing on recognizing those CRA-licensed businesses that are majority-owned by veterans of the US armed forces. Upon approval to be part of the VRP, businesses will receive a recognition letter and a seal from the CRA. The program uses the ownership structure provided during the licensing application or amendment process to determine the percentage of veteran ownership. Businesses that meet the criteria and are approved will have their name and license number listed on the CRA website.
The VRP is open to businesses licensed under both the MMFLA and the MRTMA. To apply, businesses should visit the CRA website. Inquiries regarding the Veteran Recognition Program can be directed to [email protected].
Brian Hanna, the CRA Executive Director and a former captain in the US Army Reserve, shared his personal connection to these initiatives. Hanna, who served from 2006 to 2012 and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and the Combat Action Badge during his 2010-2011 deployment to Afghanistan, emphasized his understanding of the challenges faced by veterans returning to civilian life. He noted that cannabis has been beneficial for many veterans in managing PTSD symptoms and reducing reliance on potent, addictive painkillers.
Echoing this sentiment, Anton Harb Jr., a disabled Iraq combat veteran and founder of the Veteran Access Program in Michigan, commended the CRA for its commitment. He highlighted that support for veterans was a central element of the ballot proposal when Michigan voters legalized cannabis in 2018. Harb expressed pride in Michigan's leadership in providing these supportive programs for veterans.
In summary, these new programs by the CRA are a significant step towards supporting Michigan’s armed services veterans, offering both improved access to cannabis and recognition of veteran-owned businesses in the cannabis industry. Through Task Force 1620 and the Veteran Recognition Program, the CRA aims to make a meaningful difference in the lives of veterans in Michigan, acknowledging their service and addressing their specific needs in accessing cannabis.
The potential reclassification of marijuana from Schedule 1 to Schedule 3 in the Controlled Substances Act could significantly enhance access and diversify the range of products available for medical marijuana patients. However, this change is not expected to directly influence the functioning of state-regulated medical marijuana (MMJ) dispensaries.
Amy Rubenstein, a partner at the international law firm Dentons, emphasizes that shifting cannabis to Schedule 3 would primarily open up avenues for its inclusion in the marketplace through FDA-approved drug channels. This move would facilitate the development of cannabis-based pharmaceuticals and their subsequent approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Once these drugs receive FDA clearance, they could be dispensed via federally licensed pharmacies upon prescription.
However, Rubenstein points out that the process of drug development, including necessary studies and obtaining FDA approval, is a lengthy one. Consequently, it will be some time before marijuana-based drugs are available in pharmacies. In the meantime, medical marijuana patients can still procure regulated cannabis products from state-licensed dispensaries.
This rescheduling could also provide a layer of security for state-regulated recreational marijuana retailers, reducing the fear of federal intervention, as per industry observers.
“The state-legal markets are not going to disappear,” asserts Rubenstein.
Echoing this sentiment, Justin Brandt, a partner at the Scottsdale, Arizona-based law firm Bianchi & Brandt, foresees the eventual availability of medical marijuana products in pharmacies. However, he cautions that attaining FDA approval under Schedule 3 status involves rigorous clinical trials and procedures akin to those undertaken by large pharmaceutical companies—a process both costly and time-consuming.
As for marijuana in its flower form, experts anticipate that the FDA is unlikely to approve combustible products. Vince Ning, CEO of California marijuana distributor Nabis, envisions a future where marijuana might be sold in pharmacies, but likely in non-combustible formats such as pills or medical-grade concentrates.
“I just don’t see a pharmacy or a Kaiser Permanente selling cannabis flower," Ning remarks, adding that he hopes for the expansion of direct-to-consumer channels and greater access overall to combat the illicit market. Despite these potential changes, Ning believes dispensaries will continue to play a vital role.