Flint, MI—The Flint Planning Commission is one step closer to sending the city’s new marijuana ordinance to a vote.

The update to Flint’s marijuana ordinance, which regulates marijuana businesses in the city, has been on a tight timeline since the passage of a new zoning code on July 25.

That’s because when the zoning code goes into effect on Oct. 29, it will basically overwrite Flint’s current marijuana ordinance unless a new one is passed.

To avoid that possibility, the Flint Planning Commission met with Assistant City Attorney Joanne Gurley, who has been spearheading the update alongside Flint’s Planning and Development Department, to review the city’s proposed permanent marijuana ordinance.

Here is a summary of the changes the commissioners approved and nixed at that Aug. 23 meeting:

Approved adding a Class A Microbusiness License option

Earlier this year, the State of Michigan’s Marijuana Regulatory Agency added a new Class A Marijuana Microbusiness license that allows a microbusiness licensee to grow 300 plants instead of the former cap of 150 plants.

It also allows the licensee to purchase marijuana concentrate and marijuana-infused products from a processor.

While other changes to the ordinance did not require a direct vote, the present Flint Planning Commission members—Commissioners Harry Ryan, Leora Campbell, Carol-Anne Blower, Robert Wesley, Robert Jewell, and Lynn Sorenson—voted unanimously to include the Class A Microbusiness license in the city’s proposed updated ordinance. 

Approved updating location limitations

Flint’s prior marijuana ordinance did not include licensed home-based childcare centers, youth centers, and “substance abuse disorder or substance abuse rehabilitation centers licensed by the state” in its location restrictions for marijuana facilities.

Now all of those types of sites are included.

Taken collectively, the new ordinance restricts facilities wishing to operate under “Group E” and “Group F” special regulated use licenses as follows:

Unless otherwise exempted by city code, such facilities cannot be within 1,000 feet of a PreK-12 school, licensed home-based childcare center, youth center, or substance abuse disorder or substance abuse rehabilitation center licensed by the state; within 500 feet of a dedicated public park or place of worship; or within 300 feet of a residential property or residentially zoned district.

Approved extending possible operating hours

The updated ordinance language extends possible operating hours for marijuana retail businesses, provisioning centers, and micro businesses to between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.

“Originally, it was 7:00 p.m.,” Gurley explained to the commissioners. “The amendment was to make it to 9:00 p.m. to follow with surrounding communities.” 

Rejected permitting drive-thru windows at marijuana provisioning centers and retailers

While the proposed language of Flint’s marijuana ordinance originally removed two sections that prohibited drive-thru windows at marijuana facilities, commissioners voted 5-1 to keep the sections in.

“From my perspective, I’m not quite sure of having a drive-thru window,” said Commissioner Robert Jewell. “Because then it would create difficulties regarding the issue of security process and procedure.”

Jewell explained that marijuana facilities currently have to follow strict guidelines around patrons and staff entering and exiting buildings. He said a drive-thru window seems ill-fit to comply with those security measures.

“Have we did any type of research? Have we looked at any of the facilities outside of this county that might have drive-thrus?” asked Flint Planning Commission Chair Robert Wesley in response. “I’m not in favor of drive-thru windows, but I want to make sure that we’re in sort of lockstep with other facilities and learning from their experiences.”

Commissioner Lynn Sorenson added that she felt the entire marijuana buying process had already changed drastically since medical facilities were first approved.

“When this whole marijuana thing started it was you could only enter these facilities if you had a marijuana card,” Sorenson said. “So that was kind of like the whole purpose of going into this vestibule or this foyer.”

Sorenson said people aren’t required to have such cards to buy marijuana anymore, and asked what security people would really be bypassing at a drive-thru window given that understanding.

Ultimately, the commissioners decided that they would leave the prohibition of drive-thru windows in the ordinance. However, Jewell noted, “we may need to address [drive-thru windows] down the road” through amendments.

Approved adding background check fee language and sanction attestation to license submission requirements

The proposed ordinance adds language to require advance payment to the city of Flint Police Department for background checks.

Gurley did not state whether the city had already been charging a background check fee to applicants prior to this update. The city did not reply to Flint Beat’s request for clarification by press time.

Additionally, licensees are now required to sign a letter stating that they understand that “sanctions” may be imposed should they violate city or state ordinances.

Approved altered language regarding “Lawful Non-Conforming and Grandfathered Locations”

Attorney Gurley said she removed a clause under “lawful non-conforming and grandfathered locations” to comply with the city’s updated zoning code and to stop properties from maintaining legal recognition for their special regulated use status should they be abandoned.

Section of the city of Flint’s proposed permanent marijuana ordinance regarding the non-conforming and grandfathered marijuana facility locations, as of Aug. 23, 2022. (City of Flint)

“What I’ve done is ended the sentence at ‘will retain legal non-conforming rights, period’ and excluded ‘and become a legal non-conforming use,’” Gurley explained. “Because if a non-conforming use is abandoned under this language, if it were not excluded, that non-conforming use could still continue even though it has been abandoned.”

Rejected adding a Temporary Marijuana Event License option

While the proposed updated ordinance did include a temporary marijuana event license option—which allows the licensee, who needs to hold a marijuana event organizer license as well, to host one-off or multi-day events which can feature marijuana sales, consumption, or both depending on municipal restrictions—the commissioners decided they had too many questions about how the license would work to allow it.

Commissioner Carol-Anne Blower said that although “enforcement” is outside of the commission’s purview, it was something she felt needed more clarification before moving the license option forward.

Blower said she was “concerned with what our police department and/or enforcement of this would like” though she wasn’t opposed to the license type overall.

“Since we as the Planning Commission do not do enforcement, that doesn’t necessarily mean we can’t request of the applicant certain criteria be filled,” Jewell responded. “I.E you’re holding this event, we expect these things to be posted, noticed, and so forth… So I think there is some flexibility in regards to the issue of preparing for enforcement or fulfillment.”

Blower said she didn’t disagree, but added that security isn’t necessarily part of the application process at present, so she felt it needed to be addressed by the commission before passing the ordinance through for an approval vote.

Ultimately, the commission voted 4-2 to remove the temporary marijuana event license from the proposed ordinance, with Commissioners Wesley, Blower, Jewell, and Sorenson voting to remove it and Commissioners Ryan and Campbell voting to keep it.

Kate is Flint Beat's associate editor. She joined the team as a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues....