Kalamazoo City Commissioners Talk Marijuana

Oct 8, 2019

Kalamazoo City commissioners hear a report from the state Marijuana Regulatory Agency on Monday, Oct. 7, 2019
Credit John McNeill / WMUK

Kalamazoo City commissioners have voted to delay a decision on whether to allow recreational marijuana businesses for eight more months. The state plans to take license applications from growers, processors, transporters, and retailers next month, but only from those with local permits.

City Attorney Clyde Robinson says it will take until next June to respond to rule changes in Lansing. A few commissioners say they'd like the ordinance language sooner. But Robinson says he doubts that's possible.

"We might be able to move it to a May 1st deadline, at best. I would like to have a little more room here in order to thoughtfully approach the subject. My preference would be to leave it to June 1st."

The city had earlier put off a decision for a year. Some people at Monday night's Commission meeting say the delay will discourage marijuana businesses from locating in Kalamazoo.

Marijuana Equity

A state plan to bring “social equity” to the recreational marijuana business doesn’t go far enough, according to some critics in Kalamazoo. Anastasha Franco from the State Marijuana Regulating agency says it will give applicants from poorer communities, and local residents, a break on license fees and hold seminars. But she says residency will be the only social qualifier. "We actually don't look at gender, age, or race." But critics say that won't give minorities a leg up over well-funded marijuana operations. City Commissioner Patrece Griffin says the city should go further and add more incentives for minority applicants.

"It's important to make "equity" just a word. And that's what it will be if we don't take the opportunity to really dig in and get this as right as we can."

Other communities eligible for the reduced marijuana business license fees include South Haven, Covert, and Benton Harbor.

Foundation for Excellence Extended

Kalamazoo City commissioners and Mayor Bobby Hopewell at the Commission's regular meeting on Monday, Oct. 7, 2019
Credit John McNeill / WMUK

Kalamazoo has won an extension for its Foundation for Excellence. The Stryker-Johnston Foundation has donated another $55 million to keep it going until at least 2022. That's while the city tries to build a $500-million endowment. City Finance Director Steven Brown says the Foundation cuts property taxes, provides more money for roads and sidewalks and summer youth programs, and supports anti-poverty efforts and housing improvements.

"Over five years, over ten years, this is going to have such a deep impact on our ability to achieve the goals of "Imagine Kalamazoo" that it's hard to even really contemplate." City Commissioner Jack Urban says he hopes the Foundation's track record will make fundraising easier. The new money will cover tax cuts and operational costs. But the city is still looking for money to support youth and poverty programs beyond next year.

SCOTUS Hears LGBTQ Rights Arguments

The U-S Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday on three cases that could extend job protections for the LGBTQ community. One of those cases comes from Michigan. Amy Stevens was fired from her job as a funeral director in Garden City when she stopped wearing male clothes as she transitioned to being a woman. The funeral home said that violated its dress code. Kalamazoo Vice-Mayor Erin Knott is the executive director of Equity Michigan. She says it's anxious to see what the high court decides.

"If the position of the Trump administration is accepted by the Court, it would legalize discrimination and roll back decades of precedent."

The Supreme Court will issue its ruling sometime in the spring of 2020.

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