Following a recommendation from the city’s Planning Commission, City Councilman Mike DeWitt made a motion to adopt the new ordinance, which would have prohibited marijuana establishments as a permitted land use in all zoning districts. There was no second to the motion, so it failed.
The zoning change would have added a second layer and more teeth to legislation that City Council approved late last year, which prohibits recreational and medical establishments within the city and also bans the smoking of marijuana in public places.
Municipalities are allowed to ban marijuana facilities, limit the number of licenses for such businesses or limit them to specific zones.
Voters in Michigan approved the recreational marijuana proposal in November 2018. It became legal as of Dec. 6 for adults 21 and older to carry up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and 15 grams of concentrate, keep up to 10 ounces at their home, and grow up to 12 plants inside their home.
Several council members said they prefer to wait until state officials fine-tune the rules and regulations surrounding legalized marijuana before adding a zoning prohibition at the local level.
Councilwoman Kathleen Kennedy, who was diagnosed with cancer last summer, said at the advice of her oncologist, she used marijuana oil for 30 days during her cancer treatments.
“I have firsthand experience about how it can help people,” she said. “Some people it helps, some people not. I’ve seen it help with pain.”
Kennedy said she didn’t notice much difference in her own experience, and fears that people could attempt to self-medicate with marijuana instead of seeking professional medical treatment.
“I was on medical marijuana under my oncologist’s care,” she said. “Because I’m there daily, I see people that do very well on alternative medicines. But I really, really believe you need to be under a doctor’s care when you’re doing this because there hasn’t been enough research on it.”
Kennedy said she would prefer to wait for the state legislators to fine-tune Michigan laws on legalized marijuana before the local municipality acts.
Kennedy said that from what she’s found in her research of the issue, communities rarely benefit from having marijuana establishments/storefronts in their midst.
“The data that I’ve seen so far … is that cities that have this really don’t profit from it,” she said. “I don’t see Ferrysburg profiting from having marijuana establishments. I think it would end up costing us money instead of giving us money.”
The ordinance that the Ferrysburg City Council approved in December is similar to those passed or under consideration by neighboring municipalities.
“We have an ordinance on the books,” Kennedy said. “We’re open to people coming in and talking to us about it. More than likely we’ll revisit it down the road.”
Councilman Richard Carlson agreed.
“The state is still working out the rules and regulations,” he said. “I didn’t feel comfortable doing anything until we know exactly what the state is going to be doing. Supposedly, something will be happening in 2019. They were estimating about a year.”