WASHTENAW COUNTY, MI – Marijuana sales will soon be permitted in Pittsfield Township, opening up a potential windfall of tax revenue.
Elected leaders know exactly where they’ll spend it.
On Wednesday, May 11, they OK’d rules allowing marijuana businesses in certain areas, capping a years-long drafting process.
At the same time, they committed to donating net revenues they collect as a result to Washtenaw My Brother’s Keeper, an Obama-era White House initiative focused on empowering boys and young men of color.
“It sends a very, very clear message that the reason our community supports having these businesses here is to take one small step in correcting decades, generations of disparities that have been hardcoded, again and again,” said township Supervisor Mandy Grewal, referencing the disproportionate effect of marijuana prohibition and enforcement on minority communities.
“We will not do that here in Pittsfield Township,” she said.
The Wednesday votes put the township on the verge of joining its pro-marijuana neighbors, which now include Ann Arbor, Saline and Ypsilanti, as well as other Washtenaw County communities.
The marijuana rules passed unanimously on first reading, establishing zoning “overlay districts,” designating where certain kinds of both medical and recreational cannabis operations can locate.
Retail shops, indoor growers and processing centers will be allowed in the commercial areas off State Circle, Platt Lane and a part of the Ellsworth Road corridor just northwest of the I-94 and U.S. 23 junction.
Other, more industrial areas of the township will allow secure transporter and safety compliance facilities, generally warehouses consistent with the surrounding businesses.
The rules place no cap on the number of marijuana businesses, but require 1,000 foot buffers from places of worship, schools and childcare facilities, as well as 500 feet between marijuana facilities and 300 feet from public parks – effectively limiting the total number of businesses that can locate in the township.
They’ll have to go through a site plan review and conditional use process before the township planning commission, which can place reasonable conditions on the projects and will hold public hearings on each, according to township planning consultant Ben Carlisle.
Read more: Pittsfield Township is one step closer to allowing marijuana businesses
The regulations also require all operations to take place indoors and mandate shops close for business at 9 p.m., as well as control odors.
The ordinances establishing the rules will be back before the board for a second and final reading, though elected officials raised no objections on Wednesday.
They are a long time coming.
In 2018, 63% of township residents voted in favor of the statewide ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana, though officials opted for a cautious approach and didn’t immediately welcome the industry.
Now, cities and counties across the state are reaping hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax revenue from recreational cannabis sales.
Washtenaw County and Ann Arbor topped the list of Michigan localities raking in the funds this year, taking in $1.8 million and $1.4 million respectively, based in part on the number of licensed marijuana businesses within their jurisdictions.
Read more: See how much Michigan communities will receive from $172 million in 2021 recreational marijuana tax
On Wednesday, Pittsfield Clerk Michelle Anzaldi, part of the advisory group formed in 2020 to draft the marijuana rules, said she had conservatively estimated the township would take in $20,000 to $30,000 annually.
But, she added, based on this year’s tax revenue distribution from the state, that figure could be more like $100,000 or $200,000, depending on how many retailers come to the township.
The influx is a “great opportunity,” she said, referencing the decision to donate net proceeds to My Brother’s Keeper.
The organization has a long history in Washtenaw County, which became among the first in the nation to sign on to the Obama initiative focused on addressing opportunity gaps for young people of color.
Among its initiatives is Formula 734, a hip-hop album and documentary project crafted by an intergenerational group of young people and local artists and released in 2020, now in its second iteration.
On Wednesday, Jamall Bufford, a leader of the initiative and project specialist for My Brother’s Keeper, praised Pittsfield leaders for setting aside structural funding for the group’s programming.
“We think this could be a big step toward some of the systemic change that we want to see in our community for our black and brown young people,” he said.
Elected officials echoed that sentiment.
“I can think of no better investment than the investment that we are hopefully going to make to the young men of this community,” said township Trustee Linda Edwards-Brown. “If not now, when?”
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