Southfield enacts moratorium on recreational marijuana establishments

By: Kayla Dimick, Tiffany Esshaki | Southfield Sun | Published December 5, 2018

 Southfield City Hall

Southfield City Hall

File photo by Erin Sanchez

SOUTHFIELD — Local marijuana enthusiasts will have to wait 180 days for a decision on whether Southfield will allow recreational marijuana establishments.

At its Nov. 26 meeting, the Southfield City Council unanimously consented to enact a 180-day moratorium on recreational marijuana establishments.

Proposal 1, which legalizes pot for recreational use for people 21 and older, passed in all 83 Michigan counties during the midterm election Nov. 6 with more than 55 percent of the vote.

According to the resolution, the city’s Planning Department and the City Council have deemed it necessary to study the issue in order to ensure “consistent, cohesive and sensible land development in the city,” and to remove the need for delaying applications for such establishments.

During the moratorium, the city will not consider any request for approval related to a recreational marijuana establishment.

City Attorney Elizabeth Rae-O’Donnell said in council documents that the Planning Department is currently studying a possible amendment to the city’s zoning ordinance that would regulate recreational marijuana businesses.

“Although it is true the Michigan Department of Licensing and Business Regulation has one year to come up with regulations regarding licensing of business establishments and the license holders, there are instances in consultation with the planning director where perhaps some business owners could sneak in the sale of marijuana accessories or people could give marijuana away,” Rae-O’Donnell said at the meeting. “We wanted to have this moratorium in place so that we can study this issue and look to guidance from the state and other communities as well.”

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol said it expects the first adult-use marijuana businesses to open by 2020. Before then, legislators will be working to sort out a myriad of regulations, from distribution to consumption and criminal behavior, like driving while high.

The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs is expected to ban the use of edibles that appeal to children, and to require that marijuana products be sold in childproof packaging labeled with potency levels that remain under certain limits.

But with opting out of allowing marijuana retailers to operate within municipal limits, those cities, villages and townships won’t get any of the extra cash generated from pot sales. According to the ballot language, 35 percent of the funds generated will go toward K-12 education, 35 percent toward the repair and maintenance of roads and bridges, 15 percent toward local municipalities that allow marijuana-related businesses in their jurisdictions, and 15 percent toward counties that allow marijuana-related businesses within their borders.

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol estimates recreational marijuana to generate $200 million annually.

What municipal leaders can’t distance themselves from, though, is marijuana consumption, as of-age residents around the state are allowed by state law to have 2.5 ounces of pot for personal use on their person and 10 ounces at home, or 12 marijuana plants.

But just like alcohol, police can still cite or arrest individuals with marijuana if they’re using it unlawfully. The most commonly expected occurrence along those lines will likely be driving while high, according to Lt. Mike Shaw, of the Michigan State Police, which will be enforced much like driving while intoxicated under alcohol.

“Those signs of intoxication are basically the same for drugs and alcohol: slurred speech, trouble standing,” he said. “But we’ve had the medical component of marijuana now for a while, and we’ve been talking with our partners in Colorado and Washington to learn how they’ve adapted. And we’ll rely on the Attorney General’s Office to see what impact it has on policy and procedures.”

Staff Writers Sarah Wojcik and Nick Mordowanec contributed to this report.