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Esky pot rules head to city council

ESCANABA — While the city of Escanaba is still far from allowing marijuana establishments within its borders, the possibility of retail sales and even marijuana-themed events is closer to being a reality following the Escanaba Planning Commission’s decision to send a proposed ordinance to the city council.

Prior to the proposal’s approval by the rest of the planning commission, Planning Commission Chairperson Christine Williams explained the final changes to the ordinance she has been working on for months.

“I don’t want to define what an event is, I mean a temporary event is a temporary event. So it involves marijuana? So be it. It’s still just a temporary event,” Williams said.

While Williams intentionally did not define what constituted a temporary event, she turned to her fellow commissioners to determine where such events could take place. However, the rest of the planning commission felt it was the responsibility of the city council to make that decision.

“I know UPtoberfest, it goes to council. All temporary events get approved at a higher level anyway,” said Planning Commission Vice-Chair James Hellerman, referencing the annual beer tasting event that draws hundreds of people to Escanaba.

While temporary events were the major topic of marijuana-related discussion Thursday, the proposed ordinance is primarily concerned with the rules regulating retail establishments and grow operations.

Under the ordinance, marijuana establishments could not be located within 1,000 feet of an educational institution, and no marijuana establishment — whether a retail location or a growing operation — could allow anyone under the age of 21 to work or volunteer there.

Marijuana establishments would be prohibited in residential zones and designated open space districts; retail establishments would be permitted in D, E, E1, E-2, and E-3 commercial districts; Grower Class A, safety compliance facilities, and microbusinesses would be permitted in light manufacturing and industrial parks; and Growers Class B and C, as well as safety compliance facilities and microbusinesses would be allowed in heavy manufacturing zones.

The ordinance also would restrict marijuana establishments in retail zones from operating between 2 a.m. and 8 a.m.

Currently, all marijuana establishments are banned in the city under an ordinance that includes a sunset clause. If the council does nothing to reinstate the ban, retail sales and events would be legal within the city limits on Sept. 19, 2020 — 547 days after the ordinance opting the city out of retail sales took effect on March 22, 2019. The proposed ordinance would then take effect if approved by the council.

The planning commission unanimously approved sending the proposed ordinance to the city council for the required public hearings, review, and possible adoption.

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