Clawson voters to see two marijuana items on November ballot

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published August 25, 2020

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CLAWSON — Three petitions pertaining to recreational marijuana gained enough verified signatures to appear on the agenda for the Aug. 18 Clawson City Council meeting.

The council voted to refer two of the items to Clawson voters. As recommended by interim City Attorney Renis Nushaj, the council neither adopted nor passed on to voters the third item, as its language involved amending the city’s charter and did not meet the criteria to do so.

In order for the petitions to appear on the agenda, more than 5% of Clawson voters who participated in the last gubernatorial election had to provide signatures.

The two items that Clawson voters will see on the Nov. 3 ballot involve changes to the city’s ordinances. Nushaj said that, while both of them do present some legal “difficulties,” they do not present the “glaring problems” contained in the proposed charter amendment.

Sam Pernick was one of the sponsors of two of the petitions that appeared before council — the charter amendment and a proposed ordinance change that would provide for a number of marijuana establishments in the city, including regulatory and application provisions for safe and legal access to marijuana, according to submitted language.

The proposal would allow for up to seven marijuana retail licenses; two marijuana microbusiness licenses; three marijuana processor licenses; one license each for a marijuana safety compliance facility, a marijuana secure transporter and a designated consumption establishment; a minimum of five licenses for Class A marijuana growers; two licenses for Class B marijuana growers; and five licenses for Class C marijuana growers.

“One of the goals of legalization is to get products on the black market that are untested into a regulated market. You also get tax revenue and benefits,” Pernick said. “We estimate our proposal would create over 100 jobs in the city of Clawson and robust community benefits.”

The second ordinance proposed was submitted by Clawson CARES, a campaign committee formed by Clawson resident Surab Deb to address the ballot question. Attorney Jeffrey Schroder explained that the ordinance would authorize and limit the type and number of marijuana establishments allowed in Clawson to a maximum of two retail facilities.

The ordinance would weigh applications based on a merit-based point system, which includes adding points for Clawson residents and business owners. Nushaj and Jill Bahm, the city’s planning consultant from Giffels Webster, both expressed concerns about the point system, specifically the potential for discrimination challenges from non-Clawson operators.

Schroder said Clawson CARES felt that only allowing two retail adult use marijuana facilities was more appropriate for a 2.2-square-mile city, and that the proposal would keep facilities out of the downtown area.

“It requires a community outreach plan,” he said. “(We wanted to) start with a small, conservative approach and go for a small test drive before expanding.”

According to the city of Clawson’s code of ordinances, the council cannot amend the language of the petitions’ proposed ordinance changes, only forward the items to voters as they are written.

“I hate all of this,” Mayor Pro Tem Paula Millan said. “Just because Clawson voters approved the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act in 2018 in no way indicates that people want it in their backyards.”

Approximately 66% of Clawson voters voted in favor of Proposal 1.

Councilwoman Susan Moffitt said she felt it was important for the voters of Clawson to decide the outcome of the proposed ordinance changes that would allow for recreational marijuana in the city.

“If there’s things that need to be put in place around it, then it’s incumbent upon us to make sure that those happen,” Moffitt said. “If it gets voted favorably, we just need to buckle up and take care of the things we need to take care of. We need to see what the people want on this.”

Bahm said developing a plan for regulating marijuana facilities is a process that takes several months. Each city, she said, is unique and must identify its goals and evaluation processes for licensing, zoning and site plans.

On May 21, 2019, the previous Clawson City Council opted out of allowing recreational marijuana establishments in a 3-1 vote. Moffitt cast the single no vote, as she fought to implement a sunset provision on the moratorium so that the city would have to reexamine the issue again, as well as solicit public feedback.

Mayor Reese Scripture brought up the prior decision during the Aug. 18 meeting, saying that if council had included a sunset clause, it could have crafted its own ordinance instead of having the city’s hand be forced by the petitions.

Moffitt agreed, but added that the current council could have picked up the issue at any time and failed to do so, instead focusing on other issues.

“The reason I wanted to hold off is this is a new, untried thing in the state of Michigan,” Millan said. “I don’t see it as desirable. We have a failing school system right now, and this isn’t going to draw people in to bring their kids in.”

Scripture said that, even if the items fail on the November ballot, the issue of marijuana would “almost assuredly” come back in another form.

“If we do not start addressing this, it will be forced on us one way or another,” she said.

To view the proposed ordinance amendments, visit cityofclawson.com, select “Agendas” under the “Our Government” tab and search for “City Council Packet August 18.”

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