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Keego voters to decide on marijuana ballot proposal

City unsure if ballot ordinance would be enforceable

By: Mike Koury | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published October 4, 2019

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KEEGO HARBOR — On their Nov. 5 election ballot, Keego Harbor residents will be tasked with supporting or rejecting an ordinance to regulate the sale of marijuana in their city.

Two months ago, the Keego Harbor City Council unanimously voted at its Aug. 15 meeting to prohibit recreational marijuana businesses from establishing in town.

Mayor John Fletcher said at the meeting that he thinks the city is heading down a different road, that great things are getting ready to happen there and that he doesn’t believe recreational marijuana businesses would be a good fit for them.

“What we had discussed was opting out as a community until there’s final legislation in place so we can let the dust settle and see what the end result is and possibly take it back up for review at that time, and nothing has changed,” he said. “This does not reflect any council person’s beliefs onto the use and your right for use of marijuana. What this is, this reflects our beliefs on whether it will be sold and retailed in Keego Harbor.”

The ballot proposal came to Keego Harbor through a petition by a committee listed as Voters for a Responsive Keego Harbor, according to an Oakland County government website.

The name attached to the committee is Nick Zettell, who is listed as a founding board member for MI Legalize. MI Legalize worked to advance Proposal 1, which legalized recreational marijuana in Michigan. Zettell also was listed as getting a similar proposal on Walled Lake’s ballot. Ballot petitions can only be accepted if they have been signed by 5% of city electors who voted in the last gubernatorial election.

Zettell could not be reached for comment by press time.

Because this is a ballot proposal, the city can’t take an official position to advocate for or against any issue, said City Manager Jered Ottenwess, but he elaborated that the City Council “clearly” took its own position with its August vote, and that currently is the law in Keego Harbor.

The ballot ordinance that was submitted by the petition states that a person can’t sell marijuana or display marijuana accessories within 1,500 feet of a daycare center, 1,000 feet of a school, 500 feet of a church or 350 feet of a park.

Ottenwess said this is “problematic,” because if one were to look at a map of Keego Harbor and identify where the daycare centers, schools, churches and parks are located, one would find there are no parcels remaining where recreational marijuana businesses would be allowed.

“We don’t really know right now how we would implement this ordinance if it passed because it’s internally contradictory,” he said. “We don’t think it’s actually enforceable. … Let’s say the ordinance passes and it goes into effect and an applicant shows up to open up a recreational shop. We wouldn’t be able to issue them a permit because they would be prohibited under this section of the ordinance based on their location relative to other uses.”

Ottenwess said the city would have to review the ballot ordinance with its legal counsel to determine what its next steps would be if it were to pass.

“This is something that would have to go through a legal review,” he said. “The City Council wouldn’t be able to amend an ordinance that’s passed by a petition, under the statute. So if this were to pass, the City Council couldn’t then go in and just modify the ordinance.”

Ottenwess stated that there “probably” will be an informational presentation on the ballot question at the next City Council meeting, currently scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17, at City Hall, 2025 Beechmont St.

The ballot proposal reads, in full:

“An initiation of an ordinance to regulate the sale of marihuana in the City; to allow certain medical marihuana facilities and marihuana establishments to operate in the City pursuant to the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act and Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act; to provide for standards and procedures to permit and regulate such facilities; to provide for the imposition of permit application fees; to provide penalties; and to impose conditions for the operation of such facilities. Shall this proposal be adopted?”

Source: Oakland County Elections Division