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Saline opens the door to recreational marijuana businesses within city limits

Residents of Saline, Mich. will see more recreational cannabis businesses in the city soon.

According to MLive:

Saline took the next step to join its pro-marijuana neighbors in Washtenaw County on Monday, when city leaders unanimously OK’d rules for recreational marijuana retailers within city limits.

Adult-use cannabis stores like those that have become commonplace in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti will now be able to locate in some parts of Saline, provided they receive a city permit and go through a special land use process, as well as follow state regulations.

The two ordinances passed on March 21 — one adding adult-use marijuana businesses to the city’s zoning ordinance and another establishing a local licensing process for them — mirror closely rules the city placed on medical marijuana provisioning centers when it officially allowed them last year.

Saline Mayor Brian Marl said he thought the new rules exemplified the “thoughtful and thorough” approach the city has taken over several months drafting them, adding they put “appropriate safeguards and regulations in place.”

The ordinances restrict retailers primarily to commercial areas along Michigan Avenue and outside of downtown. They’ll also have to stay 250 feet from other marijuana businesses and 1,000 feet away from school property.

Attorney Thomas Forshee, who has advised officials as the rules moved through a city code review task force and its planning commission, said the city intentionally avoided a hard cap on the number of marijuana establishments.

Cities that impose caps need to then establish a competitive process to pick who gets licenses, and that’s been the No. 1 cause of lawsuits around the state involving the regulations, he said. Ypsilanti officials recently found themselves facing litigation over their selection process in December.

Saline is instead employing a “natural selection method” that uses zoning restrictions and buffers to control the number of retailers by virtue of there only being so much available space in the city, Forshee said.

The local regulations allow retailers in the C-1, C-2, C-3 and SPA zoning districts, according to a city memo summarizing the ordinance. Marijuana growers are still prohibited.

The new rules allow “co-location,” or different kinds of marijuana establishments operating in the same building, provided they are each licensed and go through an approval process. That means businesses offering both recreational and medical marijuana could open in the city.

Several city leaders cited the unanimous approval of the planning commission and code review task force while voicing their support for the recreational marijuana ordinances.

City Council Member Dean Girbach said he’s heard concerns from residents over welcoming the businesses into the city. Still, he said, the city has faced a legal challenge over its regulations that could have wiped out its existing rules and taken away its ability to control where the businesses were permitted altogether.

“It’s an issue that I believe is coming down the road,” he said. “I wish the feds would get this over with.”

“This ordinance I think shapes the most acceptable way for our community and places it where we want it within our community,” added Council Member Jack Ceo, voicing his support.

A majority of voters in the city supported the legalization of marijuana on the statewide ballot measure in 2018, Council Member Dawn Krause said, adding her support.

The new rules are likely to get some use soon.

Saline leaders have entertained a proposal from a marijuana retailer to buy a city-owned lot on Michigan Avenue, and Mayor Marl noted the city’s Planning Commission is hearing a proposal for a separate medical marijuana center on Wednesday, March 23.

That business intends to pursue adult-use recreational permits as well, he said.

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