Community members filled the Royal Oak City Commission chambers at City Hall March 4 for a  work session on the topic of recreational marijuana.

Community members filled the Royal Oak City Commission chambers at City Hall March 4 for a work session on the topic of recreational marijuana.

Photo by Donna Agusti


Royal Oak examines regulating recreational marijuana

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published March 12, 2019

 Royal Oak Police Chief Corrigan O’Donohue holds up a 2.5-ounce bag of marijuana, the amount those 21 and older are allowed to carry following the passage of the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act, during the informational work session.

Royal Oak Police Chief Corrigan O’Donohue holds up a 2.5-ounce bag of marijuana, the amount those 21 and older are allowed to carry following the passage of the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act, during the informational work session.

Photo by Donna Agusti

 From left, Commissioner Patricia Paruch, Commissioner Kyle DuBuc and City Manager Don Johnson ask questions after presentations about recreational marijuana during a work session at Royal Oak City Hall March 4.

From left, Commissioner Patricia Paruch, Commissioner Kyle DuBuc and City Manager Don Johnson ask questions after presentations about recreational marijuana during a work session at Royal Oak City Hall March 4.

Photo by Donna Agusti

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ROYAL OAK — On March 4, the Royal Oak City Commission held a work session about recreational marijuana that featured presentations from two attorneys and Royal Oak Police Chief Corrigan O’Donohue.

The move was one of the first steps in the city’s efforts to learn more about the new recreational marijuana law and gain public input on if and how it should regulate retail establishments.

While 55 percent of Michigan voters approved the regulation and taxation of recreational marijuana for those ages 21 and older, 70 percent of Royal Oak voters approved Proposal 1.

Last month, the city adopted an ordinance to opt out of allowing recreational marijuana facilities in the city, with a sunset provision of July 1, 2020, so the commission must revisit the issue.

While communities had to specifically opt in for the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act, under the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act, the state is required to issue operating licenses for marijuana establishments anywhere in Michigan unless a local municipality enacts an ordinance prohibiting them.

The state has until Dec. 6, 2019, to set regulations for licensing recreational marijuana facilities.

“The purpose of the ordinance is just to buy time so the commission can make a deliberate decision about how it wants to go and not get stuck in a position of accepting something by default,” Mayor Michael Fournier said. “The only portion of the law that the City Commission does have any control over is marijuana businesses located in Royal Oak.”

The next step will be to utilize Cobalt Community Research, a nonprofit third-party research firm, to send out a scientific survey to 3,000 Royal Oak residents who voted in the November 2018 election to find out what they think about allowing marijuana businesses to operate in the city.

The new law will allow individuals 21 and older to purchase, possess and use marijuana and marijuana-infused edibles and grow up to 12 marijuana plants for personal consumption; impose a 10-ounce limit for marijuana kept at residences and require that amounts over 2.5 ounces be secured in locked containers; and permit retail sales of marijuana and edibles subject to a 10 percent excise tax dedicated to implementation costs, clinical trials, schools, roads and municipalities where marijuana businesses are located.

During the March 4 work session, Craig Aronoff, of the Royal Oak-based Cannabis Legal Group, gave an overview of marijuana laws and businesses; attorney Laura Bassett, of Dickinson Wright in Troy, discussed marijuana use in public; and O’Donohue addressed the impact of the new law on law enforcement.

Aronoff said the six types of licenses for adult-use marijuana, as opposed to medical marijuana, are retail, processing, growing, safety compliance or testing, microbusiness, and distribution.

“The Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act has already started licensing all but microbusiness, which is the only one new to the recreational law,” he said. “There are something in the range of 110 licensed operators in the state of Michigan.”

Of those, he said, two-thirds are retail stores and the rest are growers, processors, safety compliance facilities and a couple of secure transporters.

The last day stores can sell products from growers and processors that have not been tested by a licensed safety lab is March 31, he said.

Aronoff added that if Royal Oak did decide to allow marijuana provisioning centers, the city could control the time, place and manner of facilities. Additionally, centers would be subject to annual reviews, and the city could opt to not renew a business’s license, he said.

“What the new law doesn’t provide a whole lot of guidance on is what you can do simply in terms of regulating personal use,” Bassett said. “You can’t prohibit personal possession and use to the extent that it’s now legal under state law.”

Bassett said the new law does not authorize consuming marijuana in a public place — except where a municipality has authorized consumption for people 21 and older. But it does not provide a definition of a public place.

She recommended that the city look to the state’s law against smoking tobacco for a definition of a public place, as well as existing alcohol regulations as a source of guidance for drafting a local ordinance about marijuana.

O’Donohue said the new law, as passed, presents “a lot of challenges for police,” especially in terms of personal use.

“Michigan now allows for the largest quantity of personal use or possession out of any other state — 2.5 ounces is a lot,” he said, holding up a 2.5-ounce bag of marijuana to illustrate his point. “I could make probably 60-70 joints out of 2.5 ounces.”

If combined with the amount allowed for medical use, O’Donohue said, an individual with a medical marijuana card could carry up to 5 ounces of marijuana. And if assisting another person who is 21 or older, that could tack on another 2.5 ounces of marijuana, he said.

“These are issues that are going to work themselves out over time but present a challenge for the individual police officer on the street who’s got to deal with this,” he said.

While nothing prohibits people of age from smoking marijuana on their private property, O’Donohue said the new law potentially creates issues for the quality-of-life aspect of neighborhoods.

“For example, if I have 10 friends over (to) my house and I’m having a barbecue and all my buddies have their 2.5 ounces of marijuana and they’re smoking it in the backyard while my neighbor is trying to have a birthday party for 4-year-olds, the pungent smell of that marijuana would make their backyard unusable,” he said.

While O’Donohue said he does not believe the existence of legal, regulated marijuana businesses will lead to an increase in crime, he expressed concern about the possibility of drug trafficking in relation to home growing operations.

During the March 4 meeting, Royal Oak residents expressed both support for and concern about allowing provisioning centers in Royal Oak.

Craig Florek said that if the city permanently opts out of allowing marijuana establishments, it would miss out on taxable revenue and benefits to the surrounding businesses.

On the other hand, Katherine Howell said, “We should not be passing laws in Royal Oak that encourage the availability of marijuana in our community. Let’s not make Royal Oak have the reputation of being the pot capital of Oakland County.”

Judy Davids, Royal Oak community engagement specialist, said the city received about 48 questions from 33 people and that staff would compile a list of frequently asked questions and post it to the city’s website, www.romi.gov.

To submit a question about recreational marijuana, how it affects the city, or the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act, visit www.romi.gov/questions. For more information, call Royal Oak City Hall at (248) 246-3000.

To view the full text of the recreational marijuana initiative, visit www.regulatemi.org/initiative.

Call Staff Writer Sarah Wojcik at (586) 218-5006.

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