Council ponders pot recommendations

Planning officials recommend limits on medical marijuana facilities

ALPENA — In what could be a tight vote, the Alpena Municipal Council could decide as soon as the second half of June whether to allow medical marijuana business in the city.

Before deciding to make a long-term decision on the future of marijuana production, retail, testing, and transportation businesses in Alpena, council members requested input from the city Planning Commission, as well as the Alpena Downtown Development Authority. Council members heard the Planning Commission’s recommendations at Monday’s meeting.

Alpena Planning and Development Director Adam Poll said the commission recommended limiting the number of provisioning centers to two in the city, and allowing no more than a pair of growing, testing, and processing facilities and secure transport operations.

“The (state’s) medical marijuana act allows for us to set a maximum number of facilities by facility type,” Poll said. “One recommendation was to have one provisioning center per 5,000 people, which fits, because the city is right around 10,000. Because of that, it seemed to make sense to allow for more than one, and we think the competition will cause them to keep each other honest and provide better service.”

Poll said any growth or processing facilities would have to be established in industrial-zoned districts. Testing facilities would have more flexibility in where they could operate. Provisioning centers would be allowed where other retail stores are, as long as they are more than 1,000 feet away from schools and 250 feet away from places like churches, addiction treatment centers, and daycares.

“Most of those types of uses are located in residential districts, which the facilities wouldn’t be allowed in, anyway, so, for the most part, there wouldn’t be a giant impact on any of them,” Poll said.

Poll said he is unsure which way the council vote might go when it takes place, but stressed that, if it passes, there would still be work that needs to be done to get ready for the new businesses. He said that will involve public hearings and more work by the Planning Commission.

“Council can act any time it wants, and if they decide to move forward with medical marijuana facilities, at that point, they would direct staff to begin the process of ordinance preparation involving zoning or any other ordinances we may need,” he said. “It is not going to happen immediately, if and when they opt in. It will be something that could take two or three months.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at Follow him on Twitter