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Ypsilanti: City Approves Cap On Licenses For Medical Marijuana Facilities

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YPSILANTI — After months of discussion, the Ypsilanti City Council has taken its stance on medical marijuana in the community.

At an Aug. 6 meeting, council approved 4-1 the second reading of an ordinance that caps the number of medical marijuana dispensaries and growing facilities allowed in the city. Mayor Paul Schreiber and Councilmember Susan Moeller were absent from the meeting. Councilmember Brian Robb was the dissenting vote.

The ordinance officially caps the number of licenses issued and renewed at six for medical marijuana dispensaries and three for growing facilities. Additionally, any license that stops operation for 90 days or more (for example, if the facility is closed for 90 days) that license becomes void.

The action by council was in response to complaints by several community members regarding the "saturation" of medical marijuana facilities in the city, particularly on the south side. The news that the application process had begun for a medical marijuana facility located at 539 S. Huron St. sent shockwaves through the Ward 1 neighborhood, which has historically had problems with drug use.

The upset caused by the possibility of a medical marijuana facility in that neighborhood fueled support for the ordinance.

"I feel that council should support this neighborhood that has been cleaned up," said Councilmember Ricky Jefferson, representative of Ward 1, at a July 16 meeting. "That neighborhood was so bad that you couldn't walk down the street without being solicited for what kind of drug you want to buy… We've had it once and now we're going to make sure that doesn't happen again."

Ypsilanti resident Brian Foley, who has attended several meetings voicing his concerns over the matter, thanked city council for their approval of the cap on medical marijuana facilities.

"I just want to commend the council for supporting this ordinance. This is what our community wanted, and I want to thank you," he said. "You don't know how much this has affected our community."

"The way you want to tackle this issue, the way to do it is through zoning. Not through licensing," Robb said. "This is not going to solve the problem. It will only delay the ultimate end result by a couple of months."

Robb has previously stated that if city council wants to keep medical marijuana facilities out of certain areas, the amendment needs to change the zoning. If a license were to become available, anyone who wanted to open up a medical marijuana facility in that same spot could do so.

The city's zoning allows for eight or nine medical marijuana dispensaries and four or five growing facilities, depending on where they are located. There are currently six dispensaries and one growing facility in the city, with additional facilities pending license. The majority of the facilities are in Wards 1 and 3. Distribution is as follows:

Ward 1 - two dispensaries, one potential dispensary, one grow facility and one potential grow facility

Ward 2 - one dispensary

Ward 3 - three dispensaries and one potential grow facility

Joe Nemeth, who submitted the application and site plans for the dispensary at 539 S. Huron St. has raised concerns about what the ordinance could mean for his investment. Nemeth said at the July 16 city council meeting that he has invested over $5,000 into development plans and building improvements, and that he's met every requirement given to him by the city.

Nemeth started the process of opening up his dispensary in early 2013, before any concerns over the number of medical marijuana facilities had been raised by city council. The location he chose is one of the few possible dispensary locations remaining in the city under the current zoning requirements.

Since the ordinance capping the number of dispensary licenses goes into effect on Sept. 5, Nemeth has until then to get his facility up and running. If Nemeth were prevented from opening his facility, the issue would likely go to court. City Attorney John Barr had previously informed council that the city could face liability issues if anyone who had already entered the application process were stopped.

The Ypsilanti Courier will be following the story as it develops.




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