Utica to opt out of recreational marijuana businesses

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published December 17, 2018

UTICA—  Utica decided at its Dec. 11 City Council meeting that it will be joining many other cities that have chosen to opt out of recreational marijuana facilities and businesses.

The vote was unanimous for the city attorney to draft an ordinance to opt out of allowing the businesses.

In the November election, 55 percent of Michigan voters approved the regulation and taxation of recreational marijuana for those 21 and older. There was a total of 2,137 ballots cast in Utica, and of those votes, 1,228 voted yes and 852 voted no for Proposal 1, which was to legalize recreational marijuana. There were 57 voters who did not vote on Proposal 1.

The ordinance would prohibit the establishment of any marijuana micro-businesses. However, the possession of marijuana within the city boundaries would remain legal under state law.

Utica City Attorney Linda Belau described the reason behind why the city must take action now, and how the law governing recreational marijuana is different from the previous act governing medical marijuana in that cities had to opt in to have medical marijuana facilities in their borders, and now cities have to opt out if they don’t want recreational marijuana businesses in their borders.

“Pursuant to that new law, there will be state requirements that are put into place so that people can establish facilities to be selling recreational marijuana,” Belau said.

“It appears that probably they may be able to locate anywhere in a commercial district, is where I’m understanding it now, but there is still a significant amount of licensing that’s going to be happening by the state for rules and regulations to be put into place. I believe those are expected to come out in early 2020, and so, many municipalities are opting out until they see those regulations come out and what they are facing, and whether or not that is what they want to have,” said Belau.

She said that opting out is prudent until the city sees what the state puts into place with regard to regulations, and the city could revisit the decision in the future.

Councilman William Osladil said that he has been part of a lot of discussions on marijuana topics at the Macomb Area Communities for Regional Opportunities meetings that he attends.

“We’ve discussed the medical marijuana at MACRO meetings a lot, and now we’ve been discussing recreational marijuana, and like Fraser has decided to opt out, and newspapers are supporting that, Shelby is opting out, most of these communities already have these outs in place. We’re coming along late and to make an ordinance to opt out. I don’t want to have anything jumping in front of an ordinance, so I would suggest that we have a resolution that we opt out until we can have time to put together a resolution to make an ordinance,” said Osladil.

The council did not vote on such a resolution, which Shelby Township did as an extra protection to make sure that someone did not apply for a recreational marijuana business in the window of time before an ordinance was adopted. Shelby Township has since adopted its opt-out ordinance.

Osladil mentioned that Sterling Heights and Fraser have also adopted the same type of ordinance.

“This doesn’t say we’re for medical marijuana, it doesn’t say we’re against it. It doesn’t say we’re for recreational or against recreational; it’s just giving us a little time for the laws and licensing and the state to catch up so that we are able to put in place things that we need,” Osladil said.

The City Council will hold a public hearing on the ordinance at its next meeting at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 8 at City Hall, 7550 Auburn Road.