St. Clair Shores ‘opts out’ of marijuana establishments

Council passes ordinance ‘for now’ while determining ramifications of Proposal 1

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published November 23, 2018

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — While Michigan has become the 10th state to legalize recreational marijuana use, it is unclear what ramifications the approval of Proposal 1 Nov. 6 will have on local municipalities and their ability to regulate establishments within their boundaries, according to City Attorney Robert Ihrie.

“It actually will become law on (or around) Dec. 6,” Ihrie said of Proposal 1, speaking to  the City Council Nov. 19.

While the medical marijuana law already in place in Michigan allowed municipalities to prohibit marijuana licenses in their communities without taking any action, the new recreational marijuana law requires communities to opt out if they do not wish to allow recreational marijuana establishments within their boundaries.

The City Council voted unanimously to prohibit the establishment or operation of marijuana establishments within the city as defined in the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act for a period of 13 months.

Ihrie explained that St. Clair Shores was not alone in considering an ordinance to opt out of marijuana establishments while the law develops over the next year or two. The point of the ordinance, he said, was to make sure there would not be a “gap” between when the act became law and when the city made a decision as to what sort of establishments, if any, to allow.

While the city could have an opportunity to earn money from licenses and excise taxes on the sale of marijuana, Ihrie said there is no way to know how much St. Clair Shores could stand to earn through the licensing of marijuana dispensaries.

“There is going to be a 10 percent excise tax on all marijuana that’s purchased at a dispensary, over and above 6 percent sales tax. That fund will be redistributed to municipalities that have licenses,” Ihrie said. “It is almost impossible to predict how much money would be redistributed to a municipality.

“The amount of money that we are potentially looking at as a municipality is not a grossly large amount of money, but it is something.”

According to U.S. News & World Report, Colorado — which was the first state to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012 — reported $247 million in tax revenue from the sale of marijuana in 2017.

Ihrie explained that the ordinance prohibiting marijuana establishments would not impact a resident’s right to grow up to 12 marijuana plants in their home, or their right to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana outside of their home if they are 21 or older.

“Even if St. Clair Shores chooses to opt out, that doesn’t mean St. Clair Shores residents will not have an opportunity to get and use marijuana if they want to,” he explained.

He said that passing the ordinance is not a final decision, and it can be changed back at any time. It’s just a way for people to know that, while regulations and the development of the law are under consideration, St. Clair Shores isn’t allowing establishments that sell marijuana.

Councilman Ron Frederick pointed out that 60 percent of St. Clair Shores voters approved Proposal 1. He requested that the time limit be added to the ordinance to force City Council to do its due diligence “to figure out where we really should be in this ... just so that we’re all better prepared for this.”

Frederick said that the extra money could help the city’s budget, perhaps by paying for extra policing that could be needed with the implementation of the law.

“Whether we opt in or not, it’s going to be here. If this is all going to exist and we’re going to need to police it, we’re going to need a way to police it,” he said.

Some residents spoke at the meeting to express their frustration that St. Clair Shores wanted to opt out of something that more than half of its voters approved.

“The dealings of marijuana are better off regulated,” said Troy Thomas, of St. Clair Shores. “This is going to bring much-needed business (to St. Clair Shores). Sixty percent of St. Clair Shores voters voted ‘yes’ on Proposal 1. It shows that our citizens want legal, regulated access to marijuana.”

“We could be on the forefront of something,” agreed Matthew Bush, of St. Clair Shores. “We don’t have any trouble telling our kids not to drink till 21 or smoke till they’re 18. Just seeing this outdated mindset ... I don’t see that moving St. Clair Shores forward.”

St. Clair Shores police Chief Todd Woodcox encouraged the city to opt out, at least for the time being.

“I am very much against us participating in marijuana business, whatsoever. For years, we’ve been teaching our children ‘say no to drugs,’” but now the city could be getting in the business of drugs if it were to allow licenses for marijuana establishments.

“Let’s opt out for now and see where this goes.”