ESCANABA — The future of commercial marijuana establishments will be a major topic of discussion at Thursday’s Escanaba city council meeting. During the meeting, the city is slated to present two ordinances: one outlining the rules for marijuana establishments and another extending a temporary moratorium on the businesses.
The meeting will start off with a discussion on commercial marijuana — a hold over “unfinished business” item that has remained a fixture of the council’s agenda for months and will only be removed from future agendas once the city has squared away its plan for commercial marijuana establishments. Later in the meeting, the council will address the two ordinances that could ultimately lead to the removal of the discussion from future agendas.
The first of the two ordinances would authorize and regulate adult-use marijuana establishments. The ordinance lays out the procedure that marijuana businesses would need to follow to become licensed with the city and many of the rules governing them.
It would prohibit microbusinesses, medical marijuana establishments, and so-called “equivalent licenses,” which hinges on medical marijuana establishments being legal in the city. It would also prohibit the consumption of marijuana on the premises of any establishment.
One thing the ordinance would not do is limit the number of marijuana establishments that can locate within the city. With the exception of Council Member Karen Moore, who has argued for greater restrictions on marijuana in general, the council has overwhelmingly supported moving forward without a cap on the number of marijuana businesses. While such caps are allowed by state law, implementing them can be tricky and opens the city up to litigation from businesses who don’t make the cut.
The second ordinance is designed to extend the sunset clause on the city’s current ordinance opting the city out of commercial marijuana businesses. Extending the sunset to Sept. 30 would allow the city to cushion as it tries to get a new ordinance in place. The current ordinance is set to expire Sept. 16, and if new ordinances are not in place by that time that either extends the sunset or marijuana regulate establishments, there will be no regulation on commercial marijuana in the city outside of the bare-bones regulations outlined in state law.
Thursday is set to be the first reading for both ordinances, with second readings, and possible public readings, expected adoption to take place at the ordinary hearings. 1 meeting.
CITY MANAGER’S REVIEW
While the review of City Manager Patrick Jordan was officially approved on the July 22, the results of that review have been kept secret in what is a sharp contrast to how the city has typically handled the review of its highest ranking employee.
In the past, the city has provided an anonymized version of the review to the media, keeping the scoring and written comments intact but eliminating which council members made each statement. A story summarizing the review and including the council member’s comments was then published in the Daily Press.
However, Jordan was hesitant to release the contents of his most current review, which was the subject of more than an hour of closed session time at the July 7 meeting and led to a committee being formed to redraft his contract.
City Attorney Lisa Vogler, who was hired by Jordan to represent the city in April and is expected to attend Thursday’s meeting in person, will share a legal opinion with the council in closed session as to whether or not releasing the review exposes the city to a potential lawsuit.
While Jordan’s contract is not on the agenda for Thursday’s meeting, the committee to review and redraft the contract has reached out to another attorney who specializes in employment law.
Like the discussion of commercial marijuana, the council has had a long-standing item on its agenda to discuss the current status of the sale and redevelopment of the sites of the former Delta County Jail and Chamber of Commerce. Past updates from Jordan have focused on potential sale agreements.
In other business Thursday, the council will decide whether or not to renew a contract with the Delta County Prosecutor’s Office for the enforcement of misdemeanor offenses stemming from violations of the city’s code of ordinances. The contract should have been approved before July 1, at the start of the city’s fiscal year. However, an oversight left the contract unrenewed.
The council will also weigh whether to approve the use and closure of Ludington Street on Friday, Sept. 16 for the Escanaba High School Homecoming Parade. The parade would take place from 5 to 6 pm