Grosse Pointe City Council just says no to marijuana businesses

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published January 8, 2019

GROSSE POINTE CITY — Recreational marijuana use might now be legal in Michigan, but don’t expect to see any pot shops opening up in the Village or along Mack Avenue in Grosse Pointe City.

The Grosse Pointe City Council voted unanimously Dec. 17 in favor of an ordinance prohibiting the establishment of businesses that sell or produce marijuana and prohibiting the use of marijuana in public areas. In addition, the council voted unanimously in favor of a zoning ordinance preventing marijuana establishments from setting up shop in the community. The sale and consumption of marijuana in public places has now been added to the “nuisances” portion of City regulations.

As City Attorney Charles S. Kennedy explained, the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act, which was adopted by voters in November, allows municipalities to regulate facilities that grow, process, distribute and sell marijuana.

If municipalities don’t opt out of the state statute, anyone can apply to open a marijuana facility in those communities. Kennedy recommended that the City not only vote on a general prohibition ordinance, but also on a zoning prohibition ordinance.

This is different from an earlier state law permitting the use and sale of medical marijuana, in that a community “had to affirmatively opt in” for medical marijuana facilities to open their doors, Kennedy said.

Under the new state law, if the City didn’t specifically ban marijuana facilities, any facility that got a state license “would have a right to operate within the City,” Kennedy said.

The ordinances might not allow a marijuana business to open in the City, but they don’t — and can’t — block individuals from recreational or medical use of marijuana under state law on private property, or prevent transportation of small amounts of marijuana for that purpose.

“We neither can nor are proposing to affect those rights in any way,” Kennedy said.

A couple of residents spoke during the meeting to express support for the council’s decision.

“I’m glad the council voted this way,” Dave Fries said. “I’m in favor of prohibition for safety reasons.”

Kennedy acknowledged that the state’s legalization of recreational use of marijuana still has a number of gray areas, including what constitutes public versus private property. While some attorneys have argued that a person can smoke marijuana on their front porch, for example, others have countered that this would be illegal because the public would clearly be able to see this use.

“There has been a lot of discussion on this particular issue,” Kennedy said of the public-private debate. “I don’t think the City is looking to make a test case out of front porch consumption.”

Mayor Christopher Boettcher noted that there are “a lot of unanswered questions” with regard to how the legalization of recreational marijuana use is going to be regulated in Michigan.

“We’re primarily a residential community, and I feel it would be best to opt out (for now),” Boettcher said.