Keego Harbor voters can decide whether or not to permit marijuana establishments in the city in the November election.

Keego Harbor voters can decide whether or not to permit marijuana establishments in the city in the November election.

File photo by Erin Sanchez

Keego voters to decide on marijuana ballot proposals

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published October 10, 2023


KEEGO HARBOR — For the second time in a year, Keego Harbor voters are being asked to decide whether or not they want marijuana facilities in the city.

Michigan voters approved medical marijuana use in 2008 and recreational marijuana use in 2018.

However, despite that approval, individual municipalities can decide whether or not to permit commercial use of marijuana in their respective jurisdictions.

Keego Harbor is currently an opt-out community for sales of both medical and recreational marijuana.

However, a proposal that appeared on ballots last year seemed to have changed things in the city.

Part of the ballot included a proposed charter amendment to end Keego’s prohibition of medical marijuana facilities and create a city department for medical marijuana responsible for overseeing the local regulatory structure of facilities.

The group that was reportedly behind the initiative went by the name Oakland Cares.

The proposal passed, with 637 residents voting yes and 527 voting no.

However, in September, an Oakland County Circuit Court decision voided that ballot initiative result.

“I filed a lawsuit on behalf of the city,” said Anthony Chubb, who is an attorney with Giarmarco, Mullins & Horton P.C. “It was our interpretation that the changes to the charter went beyond what is allowed under a charter amendment and actually consisted of a charter revision, which under Michigan law requires a charter review committee to be elected and to make those proposed changes. The circuit court did agree.”

Keego Mayor Rob Kalman shared his perspective on last year’s ballot initiative being voided.

“The last one, about a year ago, was done improperly, and the circuit court ruled that it was not appropriate,” Kalman said. “The circuit court ruled against that charter amendment because it wasn’t done properly. … There is a process to follow when you’re revising a charter, and they didn’t follow it correctly.”

As of now, Keego remains an opt-out city, with recreational and medical marijuana sales not permitted.

However, another general election is set to take place Nov. 7, and language on this year’s ballot could change things.

Earlier this year, Keego’s City Council approved a proposed amendment for this year’s ballots, and if it is passed by voters, it would allow up to one marijuana retailer by ordinance, and prohibit all other forms of marijuana establishments from operating within the city.

A group that Chubb says goes by the name “Open Stores in Keego Harbor Committee” also has an ordinance and a charter amendment that are part of the same ballot.

“Once again, in Keego Harbor, we’re facing an outside group that circulated a petition, and their petition was to put marijuana back on the ballot,”  Kalman said. “The open store ordinance that they put out repeals the Keego Harbor opt-out ordinance, and the second one they have on the ballot will allow two marijuana retail stores. We’re a small city; we’re less than a square mile, 2,000, 3,000 people — it’s my contention we don’t need two marijuana stores.”

With residents previously supporting marijuana operations within the city, Keego’s City Council decided to try to maintain some control of the process.

“It’s clear from what I’ve seen in the past that Keego Harbor residents are increasingly OK with the sale of marijuana in our city,” Kalman said. “Most of the council members, we agreed that we should create our own ordinance and allow one retail operation in the city, with some caveats. To start with, we will control the ordinances, not an outside group. … I don’t want someone that lives outside of our city telling me as the mayor and telling local residents how to regulate our own local activity.”

Kalman said that he is a proponent of local control.

“Our ordinance, our charter amendment, will allow the sale of marijuana in one store, but it will not have grow operations in our city,” he said. “The other ordinance does allow the grow, the testing, and other types of activity.”

The heading for the first part of the proposal was drafted on behalf of Keego, and it reads, “City Charter Proposed Amendment to Allow a Marihuana Retailer by Ordinance & Prohibit Establishments.”

The amendment would allow for one marijuana retailer by ordinance and “prohibit all other forms of marihuana establishments from operating within the City of Keego Harbor,” according to language on the ballot.

Another ballot initiative was created by the “outside group,” according to Kalman.

If approved, the “Open Stores Ordinance” would repeal Keego’s opt-out status, “only to the extent necessary to give this Ordinance full force and effect,” according to ballot language.

The “Cannabis Licensing Charter Amendment” would “establish an application process, selection criteria, licenses, fees, and regulations for two adult use retail cannabis establishments in the City,” according to ballot language.

At press time, no representatives from the Open Stores in Keego Harbor Committee responded to requests for comment.

According to the committee’s website,, “Each community with stores open got almost $52,000 per open store from the State in 2023 for their share of the State Excise tax on Retail Cannabis sales, plus $5,000 in local license fees/license. KEEGO HARBOR GOT $ZERO.”

The website further states that “A yes vote in Keego will generate $206,000 each year! Under this proposal Keego Harbor would get $103k/year plus Oakland County would receive an equal amount of 103/year. That will help taxpayers keep their money!”

The address for the Open Stores in Keego Harbor Committee is listed as Stockbridge, Michigan, with a Keego P.O. Box.

Michael Karson was the lone member of Keego’s City Council to not approve of a city charter proposed amendment being placed on ballots.

“I voted against the proposal,” Karson said. “I don’t believe the city needs a marijuana dispensary. We don’t have a grocery store in the city, but everyone manages to eat. If people need it, they can go outside the city.”

From Karson’s perspective, there is a “great vision” for Keego, and he doesn’t think that a marijuana dispensary fits that vision.

“We have numerous schools in the city. We can’t have dispensaries near schools,” he said. “I know there’s a lot of criteria in order to get something properly placed. I’m just against the entire thought of it.”

Chubb discussed how things will play out if the amendment drafted on behalf of the city that would allow up to one marijuana retailer and the other amendment that would allow for two cannabis establishments are both approved by Keego voters.

“Under the Keego Harbor city charter, in that circumstance, the one that receives the most votes is effectuated, and the other one is rendered void,” he said.

Although allowing two adult-use retail cannabis operations in Keego would repeal the city’s current opt-out status, Kalman understands that the amendment drafted on behalf of the city would have the same effect.

“The first ordinance, the city one, would do the same thing. We’re repealing our own, but the first one, we’re doing it ourselves,” he said. “We’ll allow up to one and we will create the ordinances establishing control.”

Kalman shared a message for Keego voters.

“Off-year elections are still very important,” he said. “I hope people take the time to read the questions that are on the proposal section, learn what the issues are and vote appropriately.”