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Fouts: ‘It’s like the Wild West of recreational marijuana’

Mayor vows to veto marijuana ordinance

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published December 13, 2019

WARREN — Mayor Jim Fouts is now vowing to veto City Council action on an ordinance governing recreational marijuana businesses in Warren.

The latest pledged veto would come after the council voted to override another veto offered by the mayor after its recent denial of his requested six-month moratorium on recreational marijuana businesses in the city.

“They voted to override my veto (of the denial). All I wanted to do, on behalf of the City Attorney’s Office, which was requested by the City Attorney’s Office, was to have an ordinance in place dealing with recreational marijuana before it’s willy-nilly,” Fouts said Dec. 12.

His request for a moratorium failed with a 4-3 vote on Nov. 26. Councilman Eddie Kabacinski, Councilwoman Angela Rogensues and Councilman Garry Watts voted against a motion to deny the moratorium made by Councilman Ron Papandrea.

Fouts later vetoed the denial, which was overridden Dec. 10 by a 5-2 vote, with Kabacinski and Rogensues voting against the override.

Later at the Dec. 10 meeting, Papandrea introduced his own proposed ordinance governing recreational marijuana. The City Council unanimously approved its first reading.

“We do need an ordinance. I’ve provided it for a first reading,” Papandrea said. “It’s open for debate and discussion and suggestions by the city attorney.”

Papandrea added, “We’ve heard a number of residents say that recreational marijuana needs an ordinance. It has to be regulated. The mayor has said that it’s part of the reason for his veto. This is the ordinance we need.”

On Sept. 10, members of the previous City Council voted 4-3 to approve language effectively opting the city in for recreational marijuana business in accordance with the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijhuana Act of 2018.

In recent months, the city has been mired in controversy and legal entanglements over the scoring of applications and licensing recommendations made by the council-established Medical Marihuana Review Committee.

But with a group of 15 medical marijuana provisioning center licenses now approved by the recently departed council, Papandrea said it’s time to move forward with recreational marijuana in accordance with state law. He cited pledged investments, promised facility improvements and the potential influx of tax revenue.

“What this ordinance does is regulate, allows. We’ve granted 15 licenses. These people have already been vetted,” Papandrea said. “They’re in the proper zone. They’re far enough away from houses, far enough away from churches, far enough away from schools. We’re talking about 15 places in the city where this also permits them to sell recreational marijuana. In addition, it allows them to allow consumption of marijuana on the premises if they’re big enough to accommodate that.

“I advocate this because we have to get these people going. We have to get these buildings rehabbed that they say they’re going to rehab. We have to get the new buildings built. We have to get people hired and we have to get taxes paid and they have to stay in business, and this will make them competitive with any other city in the state of Michigan,” Papandrea said.

Council President Pat Green said Dec. 12 that the council could move forward with a second reading of Papandrea’s proposed ordinance as soon as its next meeting. That session was moved up one week due to Christmas and was set for Dec. 17, after press time.

Green also pointed out that Fouts passed on an opportunity to veto the previous council’s opt-in vote back in September.

“I think everyone has some trepidation about it. I think this has been vetted strongly enough at the state level and at the local level, and that it’s going to be controlled,” Green said. “The proper controls are in place. It’s a legal business now and we have to provide for it.”

Fouts questioned the origin of Papandrea’s ordinance and said the City Attorney’s Office — and the administration — should have had a chance to at least review it.

“They chose to disregard a 60-year history of Warren by adding on (an) ordinance. We don’t know who wrote it,” Fouts said. “They are disregarding the City Attorney’s Office altogether and just writing their own legal ordinances, which I think came from marijuana (businesses).

“They disregarded protocol. They disregarded proper procedure to safeguard citizens. It’s like the Wild West of recreational marijuana,” Fouts said.