These towns haven’t gone to pot

Eagle communities largely ‘opt out’ of marijuana sales

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published November 16, 2018


While Michigan may now be the 10th state in the union to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana for recreational use, some municipal administrators aren’t as pumped about the new industry as the throngs of voters who passed the measure on Election Day.

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

But already, despite forfeiting the potential revenue brought in from sales taxes, municipalities across the state are exercising their right to opt out of allowing retail sales within their boundaries. That’s especially true for the Eagle’s coverage area, where nearly every municipal administrative body has begun drafting language to keep weed sales out of their town.

“At last night’s (Franklin Village Council) meeting, the council did a first reading of a proposed new ‘opt out’ of commercial marijuana establishments in the village of Franklin. The ordinance will likely pass at the next council meeting in December,” said Franklin-Bingham Farms Police Chief Dan Roberts.

Roberts, a retired FBI director, said he reminded the council members during their meeting that marijuana remains an illegal drug at the federal level.

“I provided the council with several talking points out of Colorado, where retail marijuana has been legal for five years,” he said, noting a study completed by a branch of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, which he said examines the negative aspects of marijuana use.

Bloomfield Township Supervisor Leo Savoie said the township is working to draft a similar ordinance.

“I believe we will be sitting down with our attorneys in the next several weeks to look at opting out as allowed under the legislation,” he said. “Speaking only for myself, I can’t believe collectively the (Board of Trustees) would be in favor of the sale of marijuana or other aspects of the production or distribution of the product.”

David Hendrickson, the city manager for Bloomfield Hills — who has an extensive background in law enforcement, including a stint as the city’s chief of public safety — said city commissioners aren’t in a hurry to make quick judgments.

“I explained Proposal 1 last night (during the City Commission meeting), and the consensus was to review a draft ordinance for opting out,” he said. “Several commissioners wanted to review a draft ordinance and consider it. We aren’t in a hurry to finalize a decision, at least not for the next couple of months anyway.”

Birmingham City Manager Joe Valentine said the “no rush” vibe is a great way to describe the Birmingham City Commission’s attitude toward retail marijuana in the city. The commission voted some time ago to enact an ordinance prohibiting medical marijuana dispensaries in the city limits, and Valentine said it was discussed during the commission’s meeting Nov. 12 that that ordinance would be redrafted to encompass recreational outlets too.

“We’re going to continue to monitor this. I think we’ll know better in about a year how this plays out,” Valentine said. “We’re not sure what this is going to mean for the state, and a lot of (communities) are reluctant to move too quickly on this knowing there are so many unknowns.”

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 in 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.