By SUE SUCHYTA
Downriver Sunday Times
ALLEN PARK – With an initiative to legalize the use of recreational marijuana on the Nov. 6 state ballot, Mayor William Matakas proposed a pre-emptive citywide ban during a June 26 City Council study session.
“I know some cities have opted out even before the thing passes,” Matakas said. “I don’t think there is any legal impediment to doing that.”
City Attorney Joseph Couvreur said the law wouldn’t require a city to opt in or out, but it would have to opt in under the existing law.
Matakas said under the proposed new law a city would have to opt out if the initiative passes Nov. 6 and recreational marijuana were to be banned in the city.
“I think we would be able to wait until it passes,” Couvreur said. “Are you saying we should take pre-emptive action?”
Matakas replied yes, to which Couvreur said he was uncertain.
“The only reason I say that is, the council, there is no way you can go out as a community and actively campaign,” Matakas said. “Pretty much if the council took a position one way or the other, if it came before the council and they took a position to opt out, or the council said it wouldn’t opt out, then the city would know at least the recommendation.”
Matakas said police officers have been out on the city’s behalf talking to residents against recreational use of marijuana, and the Stop Underage Drinking/Drugs Downriver Coalition, through the Guidance Center, 13311 Allen Road, Southgate, has gone beyond its service area talking about the problems the legal recreational use of marijuana could cause if it passes.
Matakas said he knows some communities that have acted.
Couvreur said he doesn’t think the council has even considered taking a position.
Councilwoman Gail McLeod asked if it was known what exactly would be on the ballot in November, and said she thought the council would only be deciding whether or not to let cannabis businesses operate within the city.
“From what we talked about in Legal Affairs, the only thing that was ‘opt out’ or ‘opt in’ was these businesses, whether you want to have a seller or a grower or a warehouse, that was the opt in, but I am not sure,” McLeod said.
Matakas said the situation became confusing when, within two weeks, there was an amendment to the original constitutional provision, which he said he thought was “weird,” because you can file an amendment without having voters who signed the first petition sign the amendment.
“Currently I have been ducking a call from one of the regents at the University of Michigan who has an interest in this,” Matakas said. “As it gets closer, the war chest for the people for it is immense, and they will start spending that money, and they will have huge media ads.
“I thought that at least in Allen Park, whatever position the council is going to take on it, if we took it in advance, the people would know and it might affect how they vote.”
Councilman Larry Templin asked Matakas if a city can “opt out” of the recreational use of marijuana, to which Matakas said it could.
“A city or township can opt out to allow recreational use of marijuana,” Matakas said. “The referendum has a position where communities can opt out. That is what you have to reference. They reversed it. Before, you had to opt in. The amendment portion came through, as I understood it, to opt out, which I thought was a big change in the thing, you know.
“It’s one thing to say we don’t have to do anything to not allow it, but we have to do something to allow it, but it is another thing to say if I want to disallow it, I have to do something.”
Matakas said Colorado is being sued by neighboring states over cannabis concerns.
“If you read the reports from Colorado, which has had this for three years, they are now being sued by their sister states of Nebraska and Kansas because they can’t control their distribution,” he said. “They have also become a place where the Mexican cartels are smuggling in, in small planes, into Colorado, their marijuana, then distributing it. So the people that think, ‘Oh, well, if we legalize it, we can control it,’ apparently that isn’t the case in Colorado.”
Matakas said he wants the Legal Affairs Commission and the city attorney to look into the issue again, because it is a significant issue, and those who would want inroads to sell are already planning.
“I’m sure the guy that has called me is not calling me to take an opposition position,” Matakas said. “He told me who he is representing, and it’s a multi-million dollar marijuana producer.”
Matakas said with the general election approaching, it is imperative that the council take which ever action the city attorney determines the city council may take.
“Before we put it to you, I just thought I would ask Joe whether we can do anything one way or another,” Matakas said.
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected].)