Shelby Township creates ordinance to prohibit marijuana establishments within its boundaries

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published December 3, 2018

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SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Although 55 percent of Michigan voters approved the regulation and taxation of recreational marijuana for those ages 21 and older Nov. 6, and personal use will become legal in Shelby Township and throughout Michigan under state law Dec. 6, Shelby Township will not be allowing grow facilities or other marijuana businesses within its borders.

At the Nov. 20 Shelby Township Board of Trustees meeting, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to create an ordinance that prohibits the establishment and/or operation of marijuana businesses within the township’s boundaries.

Of the 35,422 Shelby Township voters in the Nov. 6 election, 17,740 voted no on Proposal 1 to legalize recreational marijuana, and 16,922 voted yes. Not all voters who cast ballots chose to vote on Proposal 1. The wording of Proposal 1 allows municipalities “to ban or restrict” marijuana businesses.

The Shelby Township ordinance language prohibits the establishment of any marijuana micro-businesses, processors, retailers, secure transporters, safety compliance facilities and marijuana grower businesses.

According to the new ordinance, Shelby Township prohibits the establishment and/or operation of any and all categories of marijuana businesses within its boundaries and the state-issued licenses that authorize only limited cultivation, processing, transportation, delivery, storage, sale or purchase of marijuana within designated areas; licenses that authorize the consumption of marijuana at special events in limited areas and for a limited time; licenses that authorize cultivation for purposes of creating more plants; and licenses for scientific research, education or the cultivation, processing, distribution and sale of industrial hemp.

“The Michigan voters recently passed the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act, and what that act does permit is six various licenses pertaining to distribution, sale, transportation, testing, security, relating to marijuana,” Township Attorney Rob Huth said.

This act is somewhat similar to the medical marijuana act that passed a few years ago, where if a municipality failed to take action, the municipality wouldn’t allow these types of businesses. The difference with the new act is that a municipality that doesn’t opt out of marijuana businesses will permit the businesses.

Huth explained the reasoning as to why the township must take action early on.

“It says if the municipality fails to take action, the type of uses I just described, six license types, may be permitted in a community. And the issue is the permits can move along very quickly, so what I’m asking the board to do tonight is take two steps. First, a resolution that says none of these six types of activity will be permitted in Shelby Township, and secondly, pass an ordinance that says the same thing, only codifies it for us,” Huth said.

To pass an ordinance, the proposed ordinance has to be voted on at two consecutive meetings. To prevent someone from applying for a marijuana business before the ordinance had its second reading, the Board of Trustees unanimously passed the resolution. The ordinance was expected to get its second reading at the Dec. 4 Board of Trustees meeting, which occurred after press time.

According to the Shelby Township code of ordinances, the prohibitions stated do not restrict  the transportation of marijuana through the township’s municipal boundaries.

The township wanted to put this ordinance in place to prevent requests for dispensaries.

“If this passes tonight, and I suspect that it will, this only outlaws the commercial dispensaries and grow operations and things like that. You’ll still, under state law, be allowed to possess the marijuana in Shelby Township, but again, that’s state law. We all received a memo from the chief of police — marijuana is illegal in all 50 states in the union. We’re governed by federal law, so at any time the feds could come in here and decide to enforce it. So keep that in mind,” said Michael Flynn, Shelby Township treasurer.

Shelby Township Police Chief Robert Shelide had requested that the ordinance be considered.

“The voters in Shelby Township defeated recreational marijuana by more than (800) votes.

“It shocks the conscience that in the middle of a national opioid crisis that has affected tens and tens of thousands of lives, the electorate of the state of Michigan thought it was a good idea to legalize an intoxicant — marijuana — which is listed as a Schedule 1 narcotic by the United States government.  

“As I studied the ballot language, I noticed a loophole that could get our predominantly conservative community out of this irrational measure. On the morning after the ballot measure was approved, I contacted Township Attorney Robert Huth and asked him to take measures that would present the Shelby Township Board of Trustees with options of opting out of recreational marijuana. Mr. Huth crafted an ordinance and resolution that the board voted on Nov. 20, 2018, and unanimously opted out with a vote of 7-0,” Shelide said in an email.

If the ordinance is not followed, the township may seek injunctive relief against people alleged to be in violation of this ordinance, and such other relief as may be provided by law.

Two high school students at the meeting voiced their opinions in favor of marijuana legalization and said that the township may miss out on tax money and jobs from the industry. They also said that people may drive while intoxicated while seeking marijuana in other areas.

Shelby Township Supervisor Rick Stathakis said that the ordinance will be a good thing for the township.

“This is great, I think, for Shelby Township, and because of the sound financial practices put in place by this Board of Trustees, and because of the strong economic development polices put in place by this Board of Trustees, there is not even a small temptation for us to consider (permitting marijuana establishments),” Stathakis said at the meeting.