Retail marijuana to not be on November ballot in Huntington Woods

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published August 23, 2022

Shutterstock image


HUNTINGTON WOODS — It doesn’t look like marijuana businesses will be allowed in Huntington Woods anytime soon.

At its Aug. 16 meeting, the City Commission discussed a recent push to get an ordinance on the November ballot that, if approved, would have allowed marijuana businesses in Huntington Woods.

According to City Manager Chris Wilson, the city received a petition July 25 with approximately 380 signatures that aimed to create an ordinance that would repeal section 42-4 of the city’s Code of Ordinances.

After Michigan voters approved Proposal 1 in 2018, Huntington Woods decided to opt out of allowing marijuana businesses to be established in the city. The commission crafted an ordinance doing so, which was approved in spring 2019.

The petition wanted to put before voters an ordinance to repeal section 42-4 and establish that “not less than 2” recreational marijuana businesses could operate in town, along with other regulations and provisions, city documents stated.

As the city reviewed the petition, Wilson said, it found that there were some problems with its language and that it went “above and beyond” what should be allowed through section 6 of the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act. The section states that someone can petition for an ordinance to establish the number of recreational marijuana facilities in a community

“It had some pretty broad regulatory clauses in there about how potential licensees would be qualified, where they could put those, what authority the city had or did not have to regulate that,” he said. “We felt it was a significant overreach from what the Legislature had authorized.”

Wilson stated that, in talking to other communities where petitions like the one they received had circulated, such as Keego Harbor, Sylvan Lake and Farmington Hills, similar language was identified and they learned that the petitions had been drafted by the same people.

Commissioners Joe Rozell and Jeff Jenks shared that they both had a petitioner come to their door asking if they wanted to sign the petition. Rozell said the petition was about getting “unlimited dispensaries” in the community and that the petitioner initially misrepresented what the petition was for.

“Regardless of how you feel about marijuana itself, it’s whether or not you want it sold in our community and the fact that the majority of our retail establishments abut city parks or schools, probably not the most ideal place to sell it,” he said. “We have Berkley, Royal Oak, Pleasant Ridge, Hazel Park, Madison Heights, Ferndale, all these communities around us where it is absolutely readily available that, you know, I don’t think our residents have any trouble traveling outside of the community. … It’ll be very close.

“Will it come back? Maybe, but the residents at home, I would encourage them to be very careful what they sign and make sure that they’re not falling prey to a petition circulator misrepresenting what they’re actually saying,” Rozell continued.

Following in the footsteps of Keego Harbor, which had its legal counsel review the language and deny the petition’s place on the ballot, Huntington Woods has done the same. Though the denials were appealed in court, a judge ruled that they were rightfully denied based on the language not being compliant with section 6, Wilson said.

“That really I think closes the door on this matter for this election cycle, as I’m told today (Aug. 16) was a deadline for the county to have all ballot language ready for the (November) ballot,” he said. “The matter has been thoroughly vetted. I think our conclusion that staff, along with (City Attorney) Carol Rosati came to has been proven to be valid.”

Although he didn’t know if the topic would come back up again, Wilson said there has been discussion about Huntington Woods looking into its marijuana ordinance again and seeing if the city wants to modify it or give the voters a choice on it.

“I would set and take the commission’s direction on that, however you want to go, but I thought this was important because almost 400 residents signed it,” he said. “I think more than that (number of residents) saw it. I fielded a couple of calls since then wanting to know what the status of this was.”

Commissioner Jules Olsman believes the city is well-advised to consider its own ordinance, evaluate its impact and gather input from the residents. He said it’s a process he would like to see start to not only get input, but also consider both the benefits of marijuana businesses and its perceived disadvantages.

“At this point, all of it’s anecdotal because there are dispensaries everywhere and I don’t see a deterioration in any aspect of the neighborhoods where they’re located and probably improvement to some extent based on what they have to do to improve the buildings and the parking and so forth to do it,” he said. “I think we need to carefully evaluate it on our own terms.”

No one associated with the petition was at the meeting.