Farmington, Hills temporarily prohibit marijuana establishments

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published May 1, 2019

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FARMINGTON/FARMINGTON HILLS — In reaction to the passage of a statewide proposal decriminalizing recreational marijuana, Farmington and Farmington Hills city council members voted to temporarily prohibit marijuana establishments from opening within their city limits.

The decision passed 5-2 and 5-0 in Farmington Hills and Farmington, respectively. Council members in each city said it’s a safer option to wait for state regulations to pass before making a final decision on whether to allow marijuana establishments within their cities. The state Legislature has until Dec. 6 to put rules and regulations in place at the state level.

Farmington Hills Mayor Ken Massey said one of the main reasons why he is in favor of banning marijuana establishments at this time is to protect the city — and taxpayer dollars — from any potential litigation.

“We do want to deal with this issue,” said Massey. “We’re just in a position that the way the laws are written currently, it’s a safety precaution against any potential litigation.

“I think we are remiss and we are not doing our fiduciary job if we put tax dollars at risk for litigation when we have an opportunity to take a breath and just wait. Once things are wthen we can move forward appropriately,” he added.

While the Farmington Hills City Council’s prohibition does not include any language specifying when or if the council will bring the issue back for consideration in the future, Farmington City Council members voted unanimously to include a sunset clause of 60 days, which legally forces them to reopen this issue after the agreed-upon time frame. This was in order to give their residents certainty that the issue will be discussed after state regulations have passed, explained Farmington Councilwoman Maria Taylor.

“I don’t want to make it a knee-jerk reaction to have council ban it forever without having that conversation first,” Taylor said.

Farmington Hills City Councilwoman Samantha Steckloff and Councilwoman Theresa Rich, who both voted against the ordinance,  were  in support of enacting a similar amendment, of 90 days, into their city’s prohibition clause, though it did not pass.

“I think it’s mostly about saving face, making the residents trust us. We’re in an era where we’re still dealing with transparency,” said Steckloff. “It’s showing the residents that we respect their vote, and we’re trying to honor their vote, but we just need to wait and see.”

With residents voting to pass Proposal 18.1 last November — with 54 percent and 59 percent approval in Farmington Hills and Farmington, respectively — some residents, like Farmington resident George Lynch, 62, are concerned that the City Council is “taking a blind eye to the requests, the want and the desires of the general population.”

“This is a representative government. The people of the city voted for it, so I don’t understand why everyone is being so resistant,” Lynch said. “We want to follow the rules. We understand the rules, but the bottom line is denying cannabis to the residents of Farmington and Farmington Hills, I believe, is against the will of the people.”

Steckloff agreed with Lynch, stating that she is in support of opting in primarily because of her position as a representative of the residents she serves.

“It’s very much taking away your constitutional right to vote, and your representatives not necessarily listening to you,” she said. “While I personally would like to wait and see what the state regulations are … I am elected by the people of Farmington Hills. They voted yes, so it’s my responsibility to make sure that we’re opting in.”

Whether or not Farmington or Farmington Hills will eventually allow marijuana establishments within their municipal boundaries — and to what capacity, if they choose to do so — is still to be determined, but both councils said the issue and the conversations surrounding it will continue to be discussed.

“We have been bringing this up and talking about it repeatedly before it passed, during the elections and after the elections,” Massey said. “It will be talked about because we have to deal with it. We’ve got 54 percent of our residents who voted yes for this. We will have to come back and deal with it, and the council at that time will do so.”

In the meantime, while both cities wait for the passage of state regulations, Massey said he has larger hopes surrounding the state’s marijuana laws.

“I firmly believe this is where Lansing needs to step up, make uniform rules and regulations to deal with marijuana,” Massey said. “We have both medicinal and recreational. Let’s come up with a set of laws that are logical. That way, the laws in Farmington Hills will look like the laws in Grayling and Kalamazoo, so a Michigan resident can know with certainty they’re not violating a law just by crossing a political boundary.”