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 Reta Hendricks, of Clinton Township, leaves Erie Elementary School March 10 after casting her votes.

Reta Hendricks, of Clinton Township, leaves Erie Elementary School March 10 after casting her votes.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Pro-marijuana ballot proposal fails in Clinton Twp.

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published March 11, 2020

 An anti-marijuana sign is placed outside the Erie Elementary polling place, in reference to a ballot proposal asking whether residents want dispensaries located within township limits.

An anti-marijuana sign is placed outside the Erie Elementary polling place, in reference to a ballot proposal asking whether residents want dispensaries located within township limits.

Photo by Deb Jacques

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — On March 10, 15,163 Clinton Township voters, or 52.6%, voted against a ballot proposal that would have allowed marijuana establishments within township limits, according to unofficial results at press time from the Macomb County Clerk/Register of Deeds Office.

The vote came on the heels of months of back-and-forth debate between anti-marijuana group Clinton Township First and Clinton Township Yes, which originally collected enough signatures in late 2019 to reach the threshold needed to place the proposal on the ballot in the first place.

Attorney Anthony Penna, who represented Clinton Township First, said they were “happy with the results.”

“It was a historic victory, a great victory,” Penna said. “We were a little bit against the odds. We got outspent probably 15-to-1 when it’s all said and done. We were in a Democratic primary, where there was a large turnout, and we had misleading ballot language — and we still won.”

He believes this ballot proposal was timed with the primary “by design” to gain a theoretical advantage at the polls. However, he said the residents sent a message to marijuana-related businesses and local politicians that the message is powerful when the people stand together.

“It was just a true, organic, grassroots effort that grew over time,” he said. “It was a bunch of people protecting their community, period. That is more powerful than any hired lobbyist or any amount of money you could throw at an election.”

Penna referenced how Clinton Township Yes had numerous big-money donors leading up to the election.

Macomb County campaign finance reports show that between Oct. 8 and Feb. 21, Clinton Township Yes received about $620,000 in contributions. In contrast, Clinton Township First’s contributions totaled approximately $56,400.

Peter Viviano, who originally filed a lawsuit once enough signatures were collected and verified to put the proposal on the ballot in the first place, echoed Penna’s reference to a grassroots coalition.

The people “basically took on Goliath and slayed him right between the eyes,” Viviano said, adding that “money doesn’t vote; people do.”

“I saw convergence — a convergence of Democrats and Republicans, of pro-weed and anti-weed people, standing up against big business, and big business that wanted to transform their neighborhoods forever,” he said. “Efforts to alter the landscape of this township have been thwarted.

“I am truly humbled. I witness love and passion, neighbors rising up, voting not for self-interest, not for party — we voted for the good of the community. I am thankful to be a part of a movement. We stood for the love of our homes and the love of our neighbors. Evil wins when good people sit idle.”

Steve Linder, who managed Clinton Township Yes and had previously run numerous successful ballot initiatives at the state level, said it’s always easier for people to vote based out of trepidation. Overcoming fear and anxiety was his campaign’s biggest challenge.

He said the close outcome confirmed that the community “is still very split” on having marijuana-related businesses within township limits.

“The people spoke, and we respect democracy and respect outcomes of elections,” Linder said. “It’s too bad that more people couldn’t see the benefit of having millions of dollars of investment, and hundreds of jobs and the revitalization that go along with it. But that’s their choice and they made their wishes known.

“Nobody wants to lose, but this industry is brand new, the law just went into effect, the public still has not processed what it means to have legalized its use and what a new industry means — in terms of being able to site facilities, to actually safely manufacture and distribute and all the investment that goes along with it. There’s a lot of public education that needs to be done.”

Moving forward, Linder said it will be about further bringing the public along and providing facts so they can make informed decisions and understand that regulation, safety and a licensed market are things residents “will have to get their arms around.”

“While disappointed, this is going to happen,” he said. “We hope that the board and community understand that as this industry grows, Clinton Township is going to be part of the growing industry and won’t be an island. While we respect the views of the people who voted — whether it’s a year, two years or more — this is inevitable.”