Royal Oak to hold info session on recreational marijuana

City opts out of allowing establishments for now

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published February 19, 2019

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ROYAL OAK — At 6:30 p.m. March 4, the city of Royal Oak will bring in a panel of experts to the City Hall board room to provide educational presentations about the topic of recreational marijuana.

The panel will consist of local attorney Craig Aronoff, who specializes in cannabis law and cannabis-related businesses; Laura Bassett, an attorney who represents municipalities dealing with cannabis issues; and Royal Oak Police Chief Corrigan O’Donohue.

Aronoff will present an overview of marijuana laws and businesses, Bassett will give a presentation about marijuana use on publicly owned land, and O’Donohue will cover the impact of marijuana on law enforcement.

The event will also include the opportunity for residents to ask questions.

Royal Oak Community Engagement Specialist Judy Davids said the event will be livestreamed on the city’s Facebook page and website, and she encouraged residents to submit their questions beforehand. Questions can be emailed to judyd@romi.gov or carols@romi.gov.

“We’ll take those questions and try to find a way to combine them all and give them to our experts, so that when they come that night, they’ll be prepared,” Davids said. “I don’t know if we’ll get away with just one work session, but our goal is to answer as many questions as possible.”

The City Commission directed staff to find ways to solicit public input so that the city can construct a framework for potentially allowing recreational marijuana establishments in the city.

Following the informational session, the city will hire Cobalt Community Research, a nonprofit third-party research firm, to send out a scientific study to 3,000 Royal Oak residents who voted in the November 2018 election.

Davids said people would be randomly selected and sent questionnaires, which they will be asked to return, and the city will receive the results in approximately four weeks.

“When Cobalt does this sampling, they make sure that they get the right demographics representing everybody,” she said. “We feel the scientific survey is the No. 1 best way to reach older residents to make sure that we get their input on this issue.”

On Feb. 11, the City Commission voted 6-1 to approve the first reading of an ordinance opting out of allowing recreational marijuana facilities in the city with a sunset provision of July 1, 2020, so the city will have to revisit it. A second reading putting the ordinance into effect was likely to take place at the next commission meeting Feb. 25. 

While communities had to specifically opt in for the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act, under the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana 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 of this year to set regulations for licensing recreational marijuana facilities.

City Attorney David Gillam said that if the state did not set regulations for licensing, it would fall on the city, and he would rather have a framework in place.

“We want a little more community input in how we execute the will of the voters,” Mayor Michael Fournier said. “We’re going to look at how and what and where we regulate these facilities, but just in case something happens from the state, we do want to have an ordinance that will allow us to have some time to make sure we do what’s right for Royal Oak.”

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.

Commissioner Melanie Macey cast the single “nay” vote against the ordinance opting out from allowing recreational marijuana establishments in the city.

“I still feel that (opting out) shows we’re out of sync (with the vast majority of voters who supported Proposal 1),” Macey said. “Passing this tonight when we don’t have to act for 10 months seems unbelievably premature … and sends a message that we’re not listening to the voters.”

Royal Oak City Hall is located at 211 Williams St., near South Troy and East Third streets.

For more information, visit www.romi.gov/1345/marijuana  or call Royal Oak City Hall at (248) 246-3000. To view the full text of the recreational marijuana initiative, visit www.regulatemi.org/initiative.

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