Language changes delay Scottville marijuana vote to next meeting. 

April 12, 2022

Language changes delay Scottville marijuana vote to next meeting. 

By Rob Alway

Rob Alway is editor-in-chief and owner of Mason County Press. He is also an elected city commissioner/mayor pro-tem of the City of Scottville. He writes this column as a way to communicate with constituents as a commissioner.

SCOTTVILLE — So close, but not quite yet. During Monday’s Scottville City Commission meeting, we were prepared to take action on the proposed marijuana facility ordinance, which would allow the establishment of both recreational and medical marijuana facilities in select zones in the city limits. Unfortunately, there were a couple items found in the ordinance that needed to be tweaked. 

Basically, there were two main points that needed to be changed: 

One of the concerns of the commission was a potential conflict with the state’s “drug free school zone law.” This law basically states that the sale of illegal/illicit drugs within 1,000 feet of a school can be punishable by double fines (I’m sure there’s much more to it than that). Whether you like it or not, marijuana is still an illicit drug according to the federal government. While this fact has basically been ignored by the federal government in states that have voted to decriminalize marijuana usage and sales, it’s been a slight point of concern. In researching this, we have found no instances when the drug-free school zone law has been used against municipalities that have chosen to opt-in to marijuana facilities. 

Municipalities also have the authority to create “buffer” zones around select establishments, such as schools. The Scottville ordinance was written to prohibit the establishment of marijuana facilities within 1,000 feet of a school. The question raised by City Attorney Carlos Alvardo is whether that 1,000 feet is from a school building or from the boundary of the school’s property. Scottville Elementary, located in the 100 block of West Maple Street is the closest school building to where marijuana facilities may be located. 

The proposal also calls for an addition to the zoning ordinance establishing three zones located in the city’s two industrial zones (southeast section of town near Gourmet Mushrooms) and southwest section near the water tower, plus part of the city’s commercial business district (CBD). While the CBD consists of an area that begins at North Main Street and James Street (old school house) south to the corner of South Main Street and Second Street (Dollar General), east to Blain Street (the library) then along State Street west to West Shore Bank, Green Street to Reinberg Avenue (Jabrocki’s Excavating), and on the southwest corner to the property that includes Dollar General and the post office. The commercial marijuana district would be limited to areas south of State Street (US 10). 

Attorney Alvarado’s point is that if the 1,000 feet buffer is followed from the southern boundary of Mason County Central’s property, this would fall several hundred feet into the 100 block of South Main Street, to about the pocket park (mall), limiting where businesses can be established. But, if the 1,000 feet buffer is from the actual school building, then there’s no issue. 

I brought up, during discussion, that perhaps the buffer should be reduced to 500 feet, which is the minimum allowed by the state. The reasoning behind this is that the zoning ordinance will already address that no marijuana establishments can be located north of State Street anyway. 

Another issue that needed to be worked out is the limitation of establishments. The planning commission had recommended, and the ordinance committee had agreed, to recommend placing a 350-feet buffer between marijuana establishments within the allowed zones, rather than limiting the number of establishments. When commission received the proposed ordinance, it was discovered that there were limitations of three per zone written into the proposal. The consensus of the commission Monday was to change the school buffer to 500 and also to drop the limitation on the number of establishments and keep the 350-feet distance clause. 

While the commission could have made a motion Monday with these changes, legal counsel recommended that the proposal go back to the ordinance committee, which is meeting today at 4 p.m., and then presented back to the commission on April 25 with the appropriate language, which legally is much cleaner. 

As Mayor Marcy Spencer pointed out, this is a major decision by the commission and needs to be done right.

I am confident that a decision will be made by the next scheduled meeting. 

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