By ZEINAB NAJM
TRENTON — The City Council spent over an hour discussing medical marijuana opportunities during a March 22 study session.
Mayor Steven Rzeppa said the council has been talking about the issue for the the last four years and he is ready to move forward on making a decision.
“Over the past couple meetings that we’ve had over the last year or so we do seem to have have a general consensus from council or at least enough direction to say there’s an appetite to find our more information about medical and recreational marijuana opt-ins,” he said. “I want to empathize for growth and processing and not provisioning at this point.”
He added that some of the big questions still looming are in regards to best practices to prevent litigation which could cause the city to lose any potential positive of financial gains.
“Also, you know, what are the expected financial gains, what can we see as a benefit from our community or going forward with something like this and how we can make sure we’re best protected up front,” he said.
City Attorney Anthony Bologna spoke during the virtual study session where he answered several questions from city council and Rzeppa.
In terms of lawsuits, he said that early adopters are still in litigation and that there was ambiguity within the process which led to that issue.
Cities have been left with a lot of discussion into the city’s hands to determine who is going to be the most qualified applicant, Bologna said.
When asked about the economic return to the city itself, Bologna said it would be more ancillaries that the city may see.
“Water consumption and usage will go up in these facilities they generally require a lot of water,” he said. “They can buy buildings that are vacant and redevelop those buildings, create new tax basis of vacant land that is no longer there or improve existing buildings to create a different tax basis. The application itself though is not a real big money maker, the max you can charge is $5,000 for an application so that’s limited.”
If Trenton does opt-in for growth and processing of medical marijuana, the first step would be to approve the decision with a council vote and then inform the state of Michigan it wants to permit growing and processing.
“There is a profit share almost at the state level so taxes — the city cannot collect taxes on any of it but the state does collect taxes and from there the state allocates so much of that and redistributes it back to the cities,” Bologna said. “So, it’s not a direct tax going to the city.”
An ordinance would then be drafted which would include the specifics of what the city would want to have included. The council would also decide on locations zoned within the city for the growing and processing along with selecting a number of licenses to ensure fair competition.
Questions on the licensing numbers and zoning were raised by council members.
Bologna said if the council limits the license numbers a competitive process would come into play and the most qualified applicant for that area would be found.
If that limit is not set, then however many people have the ability to open can open in the zone or district set. There can also be multiple zones or district for medical marijuana if that’s what the city decides.
Growing and processing would include warehouses and industrial centers that will grow and process the plants. There would not be sales to consumers, but instead selling to other retailers throughout the state.
Provisioning centers would be actual retail store fronts where marijuana sales take place.
At the end of the study session Rzeppa asked council members to further think about the licensing and zoning issues discussed so decisions can be made at future meetings before a formal vote on opting in to grow and process is made.
A future meeting date to continue the topic discussion was not announced during the study session but could be within a month based on city budget sessions.
To watch city council meetings or study sessions visit the city of Trenton’s YouTube page.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])