Ferndale eyeing recreational marijuana businesses

Council directs staff to study issue and make recommendations

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published December 4, 2018

FERNDALE — With the passage of Proposal 1, cities in Michigan will have to decide whether or not to allow recreational marijuana facilities within their borders.

Proposal 1, passed by voters during the Nov. 6 election, will allow individuals 21 and older to purchase, possess and use marijuana and marijuana-infused edibles. People also can grow up to 12 marijuana plants for personal consumption, but there must be a 10-ounce limit for marijuana kept at residences, and amounts of more than 2.5 ounces must be secured in locked containers.

Other details about the law include that it permits the retail sales of marijuana and edibles, subject to a 10 percent tax; creates a state licensing system for marijuana businesses; and allows municipalities to either ban or restrict marijuana businesses.

That last part is the subject of a discussion in the city of Ferndale, which already allows medical marijuana facilities under the guidelines of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act. Earlier this year, the City Council agreed to allow three provisioning centers, or dispensaries, and one safety compliance facility in Ferndale under that law.

According to a text message from Community and Economic Development Director Jordan Twardy, three provisioning centers have applied under those guidelines, but none have opened. No businesses have applied to be a safety compliance facility.

Twardy also said there are five applications for caregiver facilities, which fall under an older medical marijuana law. None have opened.

Now that Proposal 1 has passed, the City Council will have another decision on its hands to decide whether to allow recreational marijuana businesses in Ferndale. The majority of voters in the city voted for recreational marijuana: 9,064 yes to 1,763 no.

At the Nov. 26 City Council meeting, the council decided to hold off on making any decisions and have the city staff do research and give recommendations on what the city should do by no later than May 1, 2019.

“Just like medical marijuana, we want to pick which parts of the marijuana industry we want to participate in,” Mayor Dave Coulter told the Woodward Talk. “They’re similar to the medical marijuana ones. ... Essentially what we did is, because the state isn’t going to start issuing these licenses until the end of next year, we instructed staff to work on recommendations, and both staff and the Planning Commission, and give recommendations to council.”

City Attorney Dan Christ gave a presentation at the meeting on Proposal 1, which he stated does not “pre-empt federal law.”

He also said that unlike the Michigan Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act, which was an opt-in provision, Proposal 1 is an opt-out provision.

“Recreational marijuana businesses will be allowed in the city of Ferndale unless the city of Ferndale elects to regulate either as it relates to particular types of marijuana establishments or as to the number of particular marijuana establishments,” he said. “That’s an important issue that the city will, at some point, have to come to terms with.”

Christ said Proposal 1 directs the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, or LARA, to study and develop regulations with respect to the implementation of this initiative, and that LARA is charged with providing those regulatory rules by Dec. 6, 2019.

“Given that time period, there is an opportunity for the city of Ferndale to determine what makes the most sense for the residents,” he said. “One of the items that the City Council may want to give some consideration to is whether it makes sense to have the administration and/or the Planning Commission weigh in on whether there are particular types of marijuana establishments that make sense for the city of Ferndale, and to the extent that is the affirmative, whether there is a certain number of those particular establishments that might be a ceiling or might have a range, but to provide that input to council prior to it deciding whether it wishes to allow those types of use.”

Christ listed those marijuana establishments as cultivators, which are similar to grow operations; processors; testing facilities; secure transporters; retail stores; and micro businesses.

Coulter said there is little question that Ferndale will participate in recreational marijuana businesses, but like the council’s discussion about medical marijuana, it needs to decide what businesses to allow in Ferndale.

“Like medical marijuana, for instance, we didn’t participate in the … licenses to grow or the licenses to transport,” he said. “We may want to take a similar approach to recreational. I think, like medical marijuana, I think the dispensaries are the thing our residents are most interested in, but we need to make an opinion about all the different types of licenses that are available.”