Participants gather for the annual Hash Bash protest at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich., on April 2, 2016. The school does not condone marijuana consumption at the event. (Junfu Han, The Ann Arbor News via AP)

Ann Arbor imposes moratorium on new marijuana dispensaries

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Ann Arbor is temporarily halting new medical marijuana dispensaries after recently receiving more than 30 permit applications to operate in the city.

The City Council voted unanimously Monday to impose a 60-day moratorium on issuing new permits as it considers limiting the number of dispensaries allowed in the city, the Ann Arbor News reported. Dispensaries will be exempt if they already received zoning approval or have applications currently under consideration.

Ann Arbor decriminalized marijuana in the 1970s and hosts the Hash Bash, a long-running celebration to promote legal reform for marijuana.

Mayor Christopher Taylor said existing dispensaries are well-run institutions, but the number of applications for new dispensaries represents a shift in the community.

The high level of interest in setting up dispensaries warrants taking time to review the city’s regulations, city officials said.

The council directed city staff to prepare ordinance changes by May 7 limiting the number of dispensary permits available to the number of approvable zoning applications already accepted for consideration.

City planning officials were also asked to review the minimum distance required between dispensaries. The city’s current buffer zone is 600 feet (183 meters).

Council members cited concern over the effect medical marijuana facilities could have on the community over time.

“City Council finds it necessary to impose this moratorium in order to promote the public health, safety, and welfare of city residents,” the resolution stated.

Petitioners in Leoni Township have also called for a moratorium on medical marijuana application approvals until the effects and environmental impact are thoroughly examined, the Jackson Citizen Patriot reported. The township recently approved 44 licenses for dispensaries, secure transporters, processors and growing operations.

“I personally think a temporary moratorium makes the most sense,” said Corey Kennedy, a Leoni Township trustee. “We need to see where we’re at, we need to see what the state’s going to say before we let this thing spiral out of control.”