Farmington Hills residents participate in ‘Cannabis Conversations’

By: Mark Vest | Farmington Press | Published October 21, 2022

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FARMINGTON HILLS — The city of Farmington Hills recently hosted two “Cannabis Conversations,” with members of the public given the opportunity to express their opinions about whether commercial marijuana facilities should be permitted in the city.

Michigan voters approved medical marijuana use in 2008 and recreational marijuana use in 2018.

However, despite that approval, municipalities still have a say as to whether or not to allow commercial use of marijuana in their respective jurisdictions.

Farmington Hills is currently an opt-out community.

In March, Farmington Hills hosted three “information sessions” in an effort to learn more about the commercial marijuana industry.

The sessions were conducted via Zoom, and it gave cannabis industry representatives an opportunity to make their case for why commercial marijuana dispensaries should be permitted in Farmington Hills.

According to a press release from the city of Farmington Hills, city administrators have also met with leaders from municipalities that have allowed commercial production and sales of cannabis.

Following those steps, it was the residents’ turn to provide their point of view.

The “Cannabis Conversations” took place on the evening of Oct. 3 and the morning of Oct. 4 at Farmington Hills City Hall.

Although the sessions were not intended to debate points of view or have back-and-forth dialogue, residents spoke in front of Farmington Hills City Council members.

Farmington Hills Mayor Vicki Barnett shared her evaluation as to how the public sessions went.

“I think they went well,” she said. “I wish we had more attendance, but it’s really important to hear from citizens of your community, whether they be business owners or residents, to see how they feel. … This council is very engaged in hearing from the residents and making sure that we reflect what they wish. … So that’s our job, is to represent the citizens of the city and to set policy with the city.”

The number of residents who participated was not known.

Farmington Hills City Manager Gary Mekjian was on the same page as Barnett.

“My opinion was the public input sessions went well,” Mekjian said. “I think we would’ve liked to have had more participation from our residents. … We thought it was effective; we did get some good input.”

There was a mix of both proponents and opponents of allowing commercial marijuana dispensaries at the meetings.

“I’m a proponent of opening up dispensaries, both medical and recreational, in Farmington Hills,” one resident said. “I think it should’ve been (done) some time ago in order to take advantage of some of the tax proceeds we could’ve received. I’m a consumer at a number of the different dispensaries around the area. None of them have any crime.”

However, that same resident brought up a concern.

“My only concern is that there seems to be an overabundance of marijuana in the industry,” he said. “My concern is that some of these dispensaries that are opening up, the prices are dropping considerably. Is there gonna be a problem with dispensaries … in a profit and loss situation, to remain open?”

One of the speakers indicated that she is affiliated with Common Citizen, which is a cannabis company in Marshall, Michigan.

She also commented on cannabis market conditions.

“As we are seeing an influx of cultivated product in the market, it has significantly decreased wholesale and retail prices at market,” she said. “What the cannabis regulatory agency is doing in an effort to combat this issue that they have identified as an oversaturated market is to consider whether or not placing a moratorium on cannabis grow licenses for a temporary period of time might help to bring the market (back) and stabilize it a bit more. … We don’t necessarily have enough retail open to push out the supply that the growers are able to produce. … There is an imbalance between the amount of grow licenses that we have compared to the amount of retail.”

One resident pointed out that one of the things that drew her and her husband to Farmington Hills was that it had a reputation of being a safe place to live.

She expressed concern that if Farmington Hills chooses to become an opt-in community and permit commercial marijuana dispensaries, that could change.

“It is my conviction that it is in the best interest of the city (and) its families and children, that Farmington Hills remain an opt-out city, with regards to commercial activities related to cannabis,” she said. “Cannabis remains a Schedule I controlled substance by the federal government, and this requires that all financial transactions of these businesses be cash-only to avoid breaking federal regulations. Any business where there are large amounts of cash creates situations that invites and creates the potential for robberies and other crimes.”

From the perspective of another resident, products currently readily available on the market pose a greater risk than marijuana.

“I’m wondering if Farmington Hills would fuss if we had another pharmacy that opened in Farmington Hills that dispenses opioids, or another grocery store that sells alcohol, tobacco, liquor or maybe even another ice cream shop,” he said. “Data shows that sugar, alcohol, opioids — they’re all more addictive than cannabis. … Marijuana’s here, it’s in Farmington Hills. … Marijuana brings money, it brings economic development and it brings jobs to our community.”

One resident expressed the opinion that if Farmington Hills does choose to allow marijuana to be sold commercially, the dispensaries should only be permitted in industrial areas.

“I’m against allowing the growing or processing of marijuana as a business in subdivisions … or near homes in the city of Farmington Hills,” she said. “My brother grew marijuana in a small section of his basement. When entering his house, the smell was so overpowering that I could hardly breathe; when his windows were open, the smell (went) outside. He used a lot of electricity for grow lights and air conditioning.”

She added that, “Allowing a company that grows or processes weed as a business in or near homes would be a great disservice to our community.”

Another resident, who said he owns a cannabis business, is of the opinion that accessible marijuana is “saving lives.”

“Because it’s eliminating the need for people to be on opioids,” he said. “It’s dramatically lessened the use of opioids in Michigan. That alone should be a great reason to have a cannabis business.”

One resident expressed concern that permitting recreational cannabis could lead to a health risk for some.

“I’d like to encourage council, in whatever you end up with, to encourage including production of medically supervised cannabis and restrict recreational cannabis,” he said. “My concern, quite frankly, is with the possibility that cannabis recreational use could introduce people to smoking.”

Barnett said that she was “very happy” that public members were given a forum to provide their input.

“It takes a lot of courage if you’re not a professional speaker or in the public eye,” she said. “The fact that people felt free to come forward, either for or against or somewhere in the middle, I thought was very encouraging, the fact that people do (want to) participate more in their local government.”

Mekjian shared some of the feedback that Farmington Hills has received from communities that have chosen to opt in to allowing marijuana dispensaries.

“The majority of the communities have, for whatever reason, ended up in some sort of litigation with the business owners, from a variety of aspects,” he said. “I’m not gonna get (into) specifics of those lawsuits. It just seems like the vast majority of the folks that we’ve talked to have been involved in some sort of litigation, as it relates in large part to how the licenses are distributed to the folks in the industry.”

The decision about whether or not to become an opt-in community will likely be taken up by Farmington Hills City Council members at some point.

“We’re not done taking into account what the public wants,” Barnett said. “We’re in no rush.”

Mekjian doesn’t anticipate that the matter will be taken up again this year.

“I think we’re taking a patient approach,” he said. “No decisions have been made.”

If residents would like to explore the topic further, Mekjian said, “We have all of the information available on our city website at”

Residents with questions can also call the city manager’s office at (248) 871-2500.