Mayors consider local implications of legalizing recreational marijuana

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published May 15, 2018

OAKLAND COUNTY — Voters in Michigan have a big decision on their hands come the November election, as they will decide if recreational marijuana will be legalized.

Approved in a 4-0 vote April 26 by the Board of State Canvassers, on Nov. 6, barring an attempt by the Republican-controlled Legislature to pass its own measure, citizens will vote on a recreational marijuana ballot issue.

If the proposal passes, recreational marijuana would be taxed and legalized for individuals 21 and older under the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act. Industrial hemp would be legal under state and local law; commercial production and distribution of marijuana would be controlled under a system that licenses, regulates and taxes the businesses involved; individuals would be able to possess or consume no more than 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana, and no more than 15 grams of concentrate; and there would be a 10 percent excise tax on marijuana sold at the retail level, on top of the state’s 6 percent sales tax.

If the ballot measure passes, local municipalities then will have to decide if they see a recreational marijuana business fitting in their borders.

Both the cities of Berkley and Ferndale have been working in the last year on local ordinances that deal with medical marijuana. 

Berkley hasn’t made a decision yet on what to do with medical marijuana, but now with the possibility of recreational marijuana passing, Mayor Dan Terbrack said that he personally wants to take a wait-and-see approach. 

“I try not to get too involved and take stances on things until I know what we’re actually looking at for sure. And if that does happen, then we’ll step back and we’ll sit back with council and the attorneys and, depending on what that says, we’ll figure out how we have to implement and enforce whatever we have to implement and enforce,” he said. “Unfortunately for us at the municipal level, a lot of things happen at the state and just get thrust upon us, and we have no choice but to react. We don’t have the chance to be very proactive with these things.”

The Ferndale City Council voted on a medical marijuana ordinance at its May 14 meeting, which occurred after the Woodward Talk went to press, although Mayor Dave Coulter said before the vote that he suspected the city would participate in it.

From a local community perspective on recreational marijuana, Coulter said his hope is that the state will provide clear guidelines for cities like Ferndale in implementing the ballot measure if it passes, which he believes it will.

“That was a huge problem with the medical marijuana, in that local communities like us didn’t know how to interpret the state law, and there ended up being a lot of confusion around that,” he said. “In general, I believe it will pass. I think it should pass, and I would guess that Ferndale would be likely to participate (in recreational marijuana).”

Coulter’s understanding is that, if it were to pass, the city would have to go through what it just did with medical marijuana, though a concern now is that he is unclear on who would regulate recreational marijuana.

“I’m not a lawyer or even an expert on the ballot proposal, but today people with cards are eligible to purchase at a dispensary. Presumably, after November if it passes, anyone could,” he said. “Again, I’d be supportive of that, but I’m hopeful that we’ll get clear guidance so that we’re not in a position we were several years ago. It’s one of the reasons we’ve moved relatively slowly on implementing the medical marijuana, is so that we do it in a way that’s consistent with the guidelines.”

Staff Writer Nick Mordowanec contributed to this report.