ANN ARBOR, MI – Ann Arbor is temporarily hitting the pause button on new medical marijuana dispensaries after more than 30 recently applied for approval to operate in the city.
The City Council voted 11-0 Monday night, April 16, to impose a 60-day moratorium on issuance of new permits, with the exception of dispensaries whose applications for zoning approval already have been accepted and are under consideration.
Though Ann Arbor decriminalized marijuana in the 1970s, is home to the long-running Hash Bash celebration and is considered by some the cannabis capital of the Midwest, city officials say the large number of dispensaries looking to set up shop here warrants taking some time to step back and consider adjustments to the city’s regulations.
The city’s new regulations for marijuana businesses took effect Feb. 12 and the city has seen more than 30 dispensary applications, some from existing dispensaries seeking to become official under the new laws and some new ones looking to set up shop.
The city’s Planning Commission is tasked with considering them on a case-by-case basis as special-exception uses, meaning they require special zoning approval.
The council on Monday night directed the city’s staff to prepare ordinance changes by May 7 to limit the number of dispensary permits available in the city to the number of approvable zoning applications already accepted for consideration by the city.
Of the 30-plus applications submitted in recent months, the city’s staff said six were turned away because they were within 600 feet of other dispensaries, which isn’t allowed under the city’s regulations.
The council voted 10-1 Monday night to direct city planning officials to also evaluate increasing the minimum distance required between dispensaries to 1,000 feet, along with any other changes to limit concentrations of them. The city’s Planning Commission originally recommended a 1,000-foot buffer, but the City Council decided in December to go with 600 feet instead.
Given the high interest from dispensaries looking to open in Ann Arbor, Mayor Christopher Taylor said Monday night it’s time to “take a breather” and take another look at the issue.
He said that’s not because existing marijuana dispensaries that have been operating in the city for years have been a problem. Rather, he said, they’re well-run institutions.
But he said the number of applications for new dispensaries represents a shift in the community.
Council Member Jane Lumm, an independent from the 2nd Ward, brought forward the resolution to further consider a 1,000-foot buffer between dispensaries. She said she’s concerned about the number and concentration of dispensaries and the potential effect on the community, which she said is unknown at this time.
Council Member Kirk Westphal, D-2nd Ward, was the lone dissenting vote against Lumm’s proposal to take another look at the distance requirement, saying it’s already been debated and decided.
He also stressed that he was only supporting the 60-day moratorium since it makes sense to hit pause if the regulations are going to be coming under review again and going back to Planning Commission, though he said he didn’t support the premise on which it’s based.
Lumm said she understands the Downtown Development Authority also is talking about the issue of dispensaries and may be weighing in on the distance requirements in the near future.
According to information provided by the city, the Planning Commission has approved the zoning for seven marijuana dispensaries so far this year, including the following:
- Arbors Wellness at 321 E. Liberty St.
- Treecity Health Collective at 2730 Jackson Ave.
- Greenstone Society at 338 S. Ashley St.
- Stadium Ventures Inc. at 2460 W. Stadium Blvd.
- Medicine Man of Ann Arbor Inc. at 2793 Plymouth Road
- Arborside at 1818 Packard St.
- Om of Medicine at 111 S. Main St.
The commission is scheduled to consider zoning approvals for two more marijuana dispensaries when it meets Tuesday night, April 17.
That includes the existing Bloom City Club dispensary at 423 Miller Ave. and another application from a company called Scientific Method Holdings II Inc. for 1115 Broadway St.
Several others await future consideration.
The council voted 11-0 Monday night to approve another resolution put forward by Lumm to have city planning officials consider adding new requirements for special-exception use applicants to hold meetings with neighbors early in the process to get more citizen input.
Her resolutions ask for recommendations to come back to the City Council by July 16.
The resolution to put in place the 60-day moratorium and seek to limit the number of dispensaries allowed in Ann Arbor was co-sponsored by the mayor and several council members.
“City Council would like to consider limiting the number of medical marijuana provisioning centers and other medical marijuana facilities in order to determine the effect over time of having medical marijuana facilities in the community, given the significant amount of interest in opening these facilities within the city,” it states, arguing it would be counter-productive to continue to approve new dispensary applications while ordinance changes are under consideration.
“City Council finds it necessary to impose this moratorium in order to promote the public health, safety, and welfare of city residents.”