Eastpointe to discuss options after marijuana legalization

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published November 23, 2018

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EASTPOINTE — At its regular meeting Nov. 20, the Eastpointe City Council held a discussion on options regarding the legalization of recreational marijuana use and elected to schedule a public hearing to collect public feedback at its upcoming meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 4, at City Hall, 23200 Gratiot Ave.

State Proposal 1 was approved by Michigan voters in the Nov. 6 election, thus legalizing the use, production and sale of recreational marijuana in the state effective 10 days after the Board of State Canvassers certifies the election results; certification was on the board’s agenda for Nov. 26, after press time. Although marijuana use is legal throughout Michigan, each municipality can opt out of allowing certain aspects of the businesses supporting its production and sale.

“Municipalities can’t ban anyone from using marijuana recreationally since Proposal 1 passed,” said Eastpointe City Councilman Cardi DeMonaco. “The issue for the city is determining what types of marijuana businesses we would allow in the city. There are five categories of such businesses: grow operations, dispensaries, processing, transportation and testing facilities. What the council will be tasked with is picking out of those five types which ones we would like in the city and how many would be reasonable.”

The councilmembers said the public hearing, which will take place during the council’s regularly scheduled meeting, will serve the purpose of discussing different options for moving forward in regard to the matter of recreational marijuana and collecting public feedback.

“I want people to know what the limits of the City Council are on this issue, and that the city can’t regulate use within our borders; we can only allow or not allow certain businesses into the city,” said DeMonaco. “We can regulate signs and other facets of the businesses, although we would want to get an opinion from our attorney to know exactly what aspects of the businesses we can regulate. … We want to hear from residents as well to find out what direction they want for their city.”

Eastpointe Public Safety Director George Rouhib will be on hand to provide advice from a law enforcement perspective.

“The only thing I’m going to do is provide some pros and cons of the issue to provide some insight on what could happen, and there’s good and there’s bad,” Rouhib said. “We need to do the proper research before this is implemented. We are going to get 50 different opinions and the council has to decide what’s in the best interests of the city.”

Rouhib said he wants residents to be able to look at the topic from all points of view and consider all the far-ranging consequences.

“The pros are you’re helping people in need of marijuana for certain ailments, and that help is now available, and the other big pro is it will generate certain revenues,” he explained. “Some of the cons would be they needing to decide where and how many of these facilities would be allowed in town. There could be problematic traffic issues. They’re not really considering manufacturing facilities in Eastpointe, but you need to consider the effect on neighboring businesses.”

One particular point Rouhib wants people to know about is that marijuana can be far more difficult to regulate than alcohol from a law enforcement standpoint due to it being harder to prove that someone has taken it.

“As a law enforcement officer, I’m a true believer that marijuana is a gateway drug, and many of the officers here are concerned with the increase in people driving under the influence of marijuana,” Rouhib said. “Right now, we really have no solid means of detecting THC levels in people while they are behind the wheel. We don’t want an increase in accidents, and the domino effect of increasing insurance rates or possible increases in health premiums.”

Rouhib said municipalities adapting to this new law has to be a long, thought-out process, and in the end, not everyone will be happy, but people will have to come to a compromise to find a way forward.

The City Council did express that grow operations are unlikely to be allowed within the city simply due to pre-existing zoning restrictions and little room for such businesses.

“From our initial discussion, grow operations are not likely due to the size of our city and how we are zoned,” DeMonaco said. “We have roughly only 14 industrial plots, and I believe a grow operation has to be on an industrial plot. We’ll need more information before we make any final decisions though.”

DeMonaco urged people to be patient and to remember that there will be several months before any marijuana businesses of any kind will be allowed to open anywhere in Michigan.

“Some people will show up in favor of this, some will be opposed. We already heard from some businesses interested in the topic,” said DeMonaco. “This will just be the public hearing. Action will likely be taken at a subsequent meeting. … The state has 12 months to come up with their own process for approving a business license for these businesses. We won’t be able to open a recreational facility until that process is complete. People can use recreational marijuana starting Dec. 6, but these businesses won’t be able to open until at least next November.”