City checking if pot ordinance complies with state law

HOUGHTON — The city’s Planning Commission will direct the attorney to summarize the changes necessary to make Houghton’s marijuana ordinance comply with the state’s updated requirements for medical marijuana facilities.

In January, the City Council approved an attestation allowing the existing dispensary in the city to continue to operate while the city worked on an ordinance.

Changing the city’s ordinance would require a public hearing prior to council approval.

“This is a community decision,” City Manager Eric Waara said at Tuesday’s commission meeting.

Under state law that took effect last year, communities in the state can permit five categories of licenses: growing, processing, testing, selling and transporting.

Waara outlined three possibilities:

•Doing nothing, which would eventually force the existing facility to close.

•Ask the city’s attorney to revise the existing ordinance to make it compliant with the state act.

•Look at amending the ordinance as an “opt-in,” which could include expanded activities beyond the city’s existing ordinance. The current city ordinance covers a nursery and a provision center.

About 70 municipalities have voted to permit medical marijuana facilities to operate under the ordinance, according to the Michigan Municipal League. Another 22 were judged likely to adopt an ordinance, while more than 90 have opted out.

Commission member Dan Liebau said having an understanding of what it would take to maintain the status quo was important, as is getting public opinion and considering the possible effects permitting marijuana operations would have on federal funding for the city.

“We’re not looking at both sides of it if we’re not seeing what it looks like,” he said.

Waara said based on seminars he had attended on the topic, including one led by Battle Creek’s city attorney, the rationale of permitting marijuana as a cash cow for municipalities was overblown.

“At the end of the day, the state’s going to get their pound out of it, and we’re splitting up 30-something percent between all the municipalities in the state,” he said.

TOMORROW: Residents and commission members discussed incidents and issues related to the city’s lone medical marijuana dispensary.