MENOMINEE — The Menominee City Council met in a special meeting Tuesday to hold a public hearing and vote on an ordinance permitting marijuana establishments within the city limits. The ordinance was passed in an 8-1 vote.

Initially, councilmember Frank Pohlmann moved to remove the vote on the ordinance from the agenda, noting that with a public hearing on the ordinance before the vote there were going to be comments from the general public that may need to be taken into more consideration before passing the ordinance. This motion, however, did not pass.

During the public hearing, the council heard from Kyle Blomquist, a member of Iron Mountain’s city council. Blomquist had sent an email to Menominee’s council members with his concerns about the new ordinance. “I wanted to commend the city council for considering an opt-in ordinance. We’ve gone through this process (in Iron Mountain), working with various parties interested. I will say that, overall, I am more in favor of an uncapped system in terms of number of licenses available, and using, rather, your zoning or land use restriction as the restricting agent to locate the facilities where you’d like them. This is the only way that I’ve found that gives everyone a seat at the table,” he said.

The council also heard from Holly Wolfe, who said she was excited to be a part of moving forward with dispensaries in town. “We have a group together that would be interested in setting up a legitimate, top-quality business. We’re hoping to work as packers so we can begin the application process,” she said.

The new ordinance allows for four grower permits under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act (MMFLA) and four under the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act (MRTMA), as well as four processor permits under each act as well. The ordinance allows for two secure transporter permits, two sales provisioning center permits, two retailer permits and two safety compliance facility permits. The ordinance specifically states that no permits for marijuana microbusinesses, event organizers or designated consumption establishments will be issued.

The ordinance says that any establishment wishing to apply for a license must pay an application fee of $1,500, with an annual license fee of $5,000, in addition to any other applicable fees such as zoning fees.

City Attorney Michael Celello commented on the timeframe for the licensed businesses, citing the 180-day window for the businesses to be fully operational in the ordinance. “Of the four successful applicants in Iron Mountain, three had to go back to the city council to ask for an extension; two of those were larger operators from downstate. The group that is up and running is a local group. The reason it’s in there is, to help you prevent what we have seen, I thought that a 180-day timeframe, while understandably will be extraordinarily difficult to meet, will at least show that there’s a substantial movement toward opening it and not just walking in front of the council after six months and asking for more time when nothing has been done at all,” he said.

Pohlmann pointed out that, when a new ordinance is presented for adoption, older ordinances dealing with a similar topic are supposed to be rescinded first before the new one is adopted, however rescinding the old ordinance opting out of permitting marijuana establishments in town. “You (Celello) had told the council at some point that before you can pass any marijuana ordinance, you have to rescind the existing one, because we have one already. So I’m just asking the question, was it rescinded? To my knowledge it wasn’t,” he said.

“You’re correct,” said City Manager Tony Graff, “It does need to be rescinded, but it doesn’t need to be rescinded at the same time as we do the ordinance.”

“Essentially what you’re doing is you’re amending your ordinance by rescinding the other one,” Celello said.

Pohlmann also pointed out a potential flaw in the ordinance concerning the process of selecting which applicants are best suited to receive a license. He said that in the ordinance, it is stated that the city will “establish a competitive process to select applicants who are best suited to operate in compliance with the Act and this Ordinance, when the City receives more applications than the number of available licenses.”

Pohlmann said, “So let’s say we have four licenses for growers and we get only three applications. The way this ordinance is written, there would not be a ‘competitive process,’ there would not be a rubric, and technically, the way it is written, this scoring sheet would never be filled out. The way it is written, it would be possible that somebody who has a score of about -15 would get a license. They would not fulfill any quality expectations simply because there’s not more than the number of licenses. And it could be somebody who has zoning violations in the past, tax bills past due, health department violations; With all respect, I know you’ve consulted lawyers, but this is what’s in the ordinance right now. There’s no quality control.”

Graff said an application that passes through the Judicial and Legislative/Personnel and Labor Committee, as well as the selection committee called for in the ordinance, would undergo a very thorough investigation before being approved.

Celello said the ordinance says explicitly that all applicants submit the required information to assure their establishments will meet the qualifications set out in the ordinance. “This is something you raised in another meeting, and it was correct. That has been resolved, so all applications are scored by the rubric,” he said.

“That’s a very common sense answer that you give, and I was hoping you’d give it, however it is not clearly stated in here,” Pohlmann said.

The ordinance was passed in an 8-1 vote with only Pohlmann dissenting. The full ordinance can be viewed on the city’s website by clicking on “Agendas & Minutes” under the Documents drop-down menu on the homepage of the website. The ordinance is attached to the Oct. 6 agenda, which is located at the bottom of the list.