Pontiac Votes to Open Doors for Recreational Cannabis Dispensaries

February 29th, 2024 Legislation & Policy Updates Ryan Spegal
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After a decisive vote on Tuesday, Pontiac is set to welcome the establishment of cannabis dispensaries, with 17 recreational cannabis retailers getting the green light from voters. This marks a significant move, shaped by the approval of a ballot proposal that outlines specific regulations and procedures the city must adhere to in the process of issuing licenses to businesses.

The ballot featured two pivotal recreational cannabis retail ordinances. The first, introduced by the Pontiac City Council in April 2023, and the second, an amendment made in October 2023, sought to refine the initial law. Both pieces of legislation faced challenges from various ballot question committees, which temporarily prevented their implementation.

With the passage of Proposal One by a 62% to 38% margin, the October ordinance is slated for activation following the election's certification. This will trigger a series of administrative steps, beginning with Pontiac City Clerk Garland Doyle setting a 21-day period for accepting license applications within 30 days. Additionally, the City Council is tasked with endorsing a scoring system to evaluate these applications.

City Council President Pro-tem William Carrington explained the council's role in approving a scoring guide that will be utilized by the city clerk for application assessment. Meanwhile, City Council President Mike McGuinness anticipates a swift and thoughtful execution of these plans, aiming to open the application window before the end of 2024. McGuinness also expressed a sentiment of fatigue over the prolonged legal and administrative battles surrounding cannabis regulation, highlighting a communal desire to move forward.

The path to this point has been long-awaited, as Pontiac voters had already shown support for medical cannabis dispensaries six years prior, yet no licenses were issued under the previous city administration. The newly passed ordinance prioritizes applicants with existing approvals for medical cannabis operations and introduces a point system that rewards rehabilitation efforts of dilapidated buildings and community philanthropy, among other criteria.

This ordinance encompasses a broad spectrum of regulatory matters, including application procedures, social equity considerations, background checks, and community engagement and improvement initiatives.

The successful passage of Proposal One was largely supported by Sensible Cannabis Reform for Pontiac, a group originally formed to oppose the April ordinance. The campaign received significant backing from Pleasantrees, a company with five dispensaries in Michigan and previous approval for a medical cannabis permit in Pontiac. Niccole Milton, Director of Community Outreach for Pleasantrees, voiced appreciation for the community's decision to further integrate into the regulated cannabis market.

Conversely, the proposal faced opposition from Citizens for Equitable Cannabis Reform. Despite potential for future challenges, Carrington remains hopeful for progress, emphasizing the electorate's desire for the benefits that the cannabis industry could bring to Pontiac.

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