Grosse Pointe Woods passes moratorium on recreational marijuana establishments

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published December 21, 2018

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GROSSE POINTE WOODS — On Dec. 6, recreational marijuana became legal in Michigan under state law after the voting majority approved Proposal 18-1 on the Nov. 6 ballot during the general election.

Under the new law, it is legal for people age 21 and older to smoke marijuana — albeit not in public — and to purchase, possess and use marijuana and marijuana-infused edibles, and grow up to 12 marijuana plants for personal consumption.

The new law imposes a 10-ounce limit for marijuana kept at residences and requires that amounts over 2.5 ounces be secured in locked containers. The new marijuana law also creates a state licensing system for marijuana businesses and allows municipalities to ban or restrict them.

While it became legal to possess and use marijuana in Michigan Dec. 6, the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, or LARA, is responsible for determining when retailers can legally begin to sell marijuana in retail stores.

The passing of Proposal 18-1 requires the department to begin accepting applications for marijuana retail stores within 12 months of the measure’s effective date. LARA has until December 6, 2019, to begin accepting applications for such establishments. However, under the new law, municipalities have the option of prohibiting marijuana retailers by amending their zoning ordinances.

At the Nov. 19 Grosse Pointe Woods City Council meeting, the council voted 6-1 to pass a resolution for a land use moratorium not to permit marijuana establishments at this time. City Council member Michael Koester voted against the measure.

A moratorium is a temporary prohibition of an activity. The City Council has forwarded the issue to the Planning Commission for review and a public hearing scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Jan. 22 at City Hall. The Planning Commission will evaluate the matter on allowing recreational marijuana establishments and make a recommendation to the City Council, which the council could deny or pass.

“Our intent was that we do an amendment to our zoning ordinance; it gives you the right to opt out,” Grosse Pointe Woods Mayor Robert Novitke said. “We do not want to have a marijuana dispensary in the city. We didn’t think that was an attribute to the community. We did not think that would be positive to our residents and our neighborhoods. We believe having a marijuana dispensary could impact property values.”

Koester voted against the moratorium based on the election results in Grosse Pointe Woods. More registered Grosse Pointe Woods voters were in favor of legalizing marijuana in Michigan than opposed to it. According the Wayne County Clerk’s Office website, www.waynecounty.com, a total of 5,175 registered Grosse Pointe Woods residents voted “yes” for Proposal 18-1, while 4,744 opposed it.

“More people in Grosse Pointe Woods voted in favor of (Proposal 18-1) than against it,” Koester said. “Seeing how the residents voted for it, it seemed like we probably should not go for a moratorium. That would be counterproductive. As a representative of the community, I didn’t feel it was appropriate for me to go against the will of the people.”

The new recreational marijuana law comes with restrictions. According to LARA, driving under the influence will remain illegal after the passing of Proposal 18-1.

“While it is true that marijuana ‘Breathalyzers’ are still in development, there is also no reliable roadside test for prescription painkillers and many other intoxicating substances, which is why Michigan law enforcement professionals are well-trained on how to detect people who are driving under the influence of anything,” LARA’s page on the www.michigan.gov website states. “They will continue to use the same training and protocols regardless of the outcome of the election.”

“There’s going to be some limitations to this law. We will be enforcing anything a person violates under the new law,” Grosse Pointe Woods Department of Public Safety Director John Kosanke said. “You’re not going to be able to smoke it in public. You’re not going to be able to smoke it and drive. We will be looking for suspicious activity and investigate when (someone) is driving differently.”

Kosanke pointed out, however, that there could be a number of reasons why someone might be swerving when driving.

“They may be elderly. They may be (a) new (driver.) They may have a physical disability,” Kosanke said. “They may have a mental disability. They may be very tired or on prescription medication. They may be under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. The officers have to observe the vehicle and make a determination what is affecting the ability to operate a vehicle. If there is probable cause for driving under the influence, (officers) seek a warrant.”

There is the possibility that the Grosse Pointe Woods officers will undergo training as the new law takes effect.

“Whenever something changes, we look and evaluate to see if we need to do some updated training,” Kosanke said.

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