Residents to see marijuana issue on ballot

By: Mary Genson | Birmingham-Bloomfield Eagle | Published October 4, 2023

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BIRMINGHAM — In November, Birmingham voters will have the opportunity to vote on a proposed amendment to the city code.

This proposal was initiated by city officials to maintain control over marijuana regulations in Birmingham.

The Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act passed in 2018, legalizing the use and possession of recreational marihuana for people over 21 years of age. However, the Birmingham City Commission passed a resolution to opt out of having marijuana establishments within the city’s jurisdiction.

Regardless of the commission’s 2018 decision, the MRTMA allows citizens to initiate an ordinance allowing marihuana establishments to be on the ballot through a petition. If an outside party were to initiate a petition, they would have control over the ordinance, and its terms, regulations and qualifications.

Potentially, this means a business that wants to sell in Birmingham could collect signatures for a petition to make it on the ballot.

“My interest as a city attorney is protecting the city, and I believe it’s the city government and its residents who should be determining the fate of a community,” Birmingham City Manager Mary Kucharek said.

So the city decided to opt-in to the ballot initiative.

Birmingham Mayor Therese Longe said, “The city has been paying attention to what has been happening in our surrounding communities. … We took note of the fact that several of these communities have had basically ballot language forced on them by an outside group that initiated a petition.”

Longe referenced a recent petition that was initiated by an outside group which was accused of misleading voters.

“We thought, ‘We can not sit here and wait for someone else to do this, given that it is happening in our surrounding communities,’” Longe said. “We need to be proactive and put this issue in front of Birmingham residents so that they can decide.”

According to the city of Birmingham’s website, the language on the ballot will read: “Shall the Birmingham City Code ordinance, Chapter 26 – Businesses, Article XII, which currently prohibits the sale of marihuana in the City of Birmingham, be amended to authorize and allow one (1) medical marihuana facility and one (1) marihuana recreational establishment to operate in the City of Birmingham?”

Voters will have the option to vote yes or no on this proposal Nov. 7. If the proposal does not pass, the possibility reopens for an outside entity to initiate a ballot question. However, Longe said that if residents vote no, the hope is that outside groups will receive the message that Birmingham residents are not interested. If residents vote yes, then the city will be able to limit the number of facilities and control the process.

“If an outside agency or an outside entity — and they’re usually, obviously, marijuana businesses — writes their own ballot language, they also write the criteria by which the licenses are awarded,” Longe said. “So if it’s our ordinance, we wrote it to give the most protection to Birmingham residents, the most control that we could legally take to the city, and we got to design our own criteria for awarding the license should Birmingham residents vote yes.”

Three potential zoning areas would be allowed to be considered for the one medical marijuana facility and one recreational marijuana establishment. These locations include the southeast corner of Maple and Cranbrook; in the Triangle District, off of Woodward, south of Maple and east of Adams but inclusive of Adams Square; and in part of the Rail District. A more detailed map of these potential locations can be found at

These locations are where MRTMA allows facilities to be. MRTMA’s language requires these facilities to be a certain distance away from schools and churches. Due to the language the city drafted in the ordinance, these locations are also contingent upon existing zoning, meaning it could only go in places that are already zoned for retail.

“That basically leaves those areas that are on the map,” Longe said. “They are existing retail, but they are not within 1,000 feet of a school or church.”

The city cannot initiate an ordinance to ban the sale of marijuana within the city, but an outside entity could initiate a petition to do so.

“Our mission is to let the community decide what they want in their jurisdiction of their city and let the people make the decision for the community as opposed to simply the Birmingham City Commission or outside entities deciding fate for the residents of Birmingham,” Kucharek said.

To view the proposed changes of the amendment, visit To see a map of potential locations for these facilities visit,

To watch the City Commission’s discussions on the topic of a marijuana ordinance, visit, They discussed it in depth in a workshop Feb. 13.