By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — The City Council voted 6-1 to opt out of allowing recreational marijuana businesses in the city Dec. 18. Councilwoman Erin Brynes was the lone vote against the ordinance.
With the vote on opting out of allowing recreational marijuana establishments, retail growers, safety compliance facilities, processors, retailers, transporters and micro businesses in the city also are banned.
A town hall was held Dec. 11 at the request of the city council to hear more from the community. The council held another discussion during its committee of the whole meeting Dec. 13 based on what was said during the town hall.
Council President Susan Dabaja said the council has done a lot research on the marijuana ordinance and is going with a wait-and-see attitude because there could be some unforeseen consequences of its implementation.
“Proposal 1 does allow municipalities to soften the impact of the new law on their communities by opting out of allowing marijuana-related businesses within their cities,” Dabaja said. “These include marijuana retail growers, marijuana processors, marijuana retailers and any other type of marijuana related businesses.”
“This ordinance means that the city, what we are planning on doing, is basically a wait-and-see attitude aspect on this new law,” she said. “Once the regulations have been put in place and there is more experience with implementation and oversight of these types of establishments, the city can certainly revisit its initial position on this opt-out clause.”
Dabaja also reiterated that the city council could revisit the topic and make an ordinance change anytime in the future over the next 18 months.
“The proposed ordinance would not allow any of these type establishments in the city of Dearborn with a sunset clause of 18 months after implementation,” Dabaja said. “At that time or any time before that we can allow and regulate these businesses to operate within our city.”
Councilman Michael Sareini said the most important thing for him is the law.
“As many have stated and as the law has stated, there is a provision to opt-out for a reason,” he said. “The reason allows the cities to make sure that they have the resources to deal with such grow facilities and dispensaries which is something we have to understand and get a grasp on.”
He added that the city council also has instituted rules for bars, hookah lounges, restaurants when it comes to capacity and locations as well as licensing requirements for hotels in the city.
Councilman David Bazzy said he understood why some communities may be desperate for the tax revenue, but that Dearborn isn’t.
“At the end of the day, I think we as a body will hopefully do the thing that’s most important for kids,” he said. “I said this the first time we talked — there are 30,000 kids that didn’t get to vote and they live here every day.
“At the end of the day, what we do is always about the next generation because if it’s not about the next generation, then we shouldn’t be here and so I’m never going to stop voting thinking of the next generation or stop doing what I think is right for the next generation.”
Councilwoman Erin Byrnes said she wanted to see more meetings to continue research and discussion over the next few months between residents, the council and administration.
“I would love to see sessions around, specifically, public safety, public health, the economic impact, which I think is huge, looking at the zoning piece,” she said. “Those are all really important key elements and ones that I think we’ve begun to dig into a little bit, but I’d like to see that process continue so we can dig a little bit deeper and educate ourselves further and continue to have those conversations as a community. That’s something that is really important to me.”
Councilwoman Leslie Herrick said she was comfortable with the fact that the council has the sunset clause because it gives members an opportunity to study what other cities are doing and what the state rulings are going to be.
“I, for one, wanted to see what the state guidelines and laws are that will impact us as well as doing the due diligence we talked about regarding public health, safety and the economic impact,” she said. “The sunset clause gives us time to do the study, but also the promise we will revisit this. We either renew the opt-out after 18 months or we will come up with some other ordinances that will define how many, if any we do.”
Legalization of recreational marijuana was approved statewide in the Nov. 6 general election 2,344,450 to 1,849,005. In Dearborn, the voters were split on the decision with 16,299 votes for legalization to 16,277 against.
The use of recreational marijuana became legal in Michigan on Dec. 6
According to Vote411.org, the marijuana legalization initiative is an “initiated law to authorize and legalize possession, use and cultivation of marijuana products by individuals who are at least 21 years of age and older, and commercial sales of marijuana through state-licensed retailers.”
The state law allows people 21 and older to purchase, possess and use marijuana and marijuana-infused edibles, and grow up to 12 marijuana plants for personal consumption; imposes a 10-ounce limit for marijuana kept at home and require amounts over 2.5 ounces be secured in locked containers; creates a state licensing system for marijuana businesses and allow municipalities to ban or restrict them; permits retail sales of marijuana and edibles subject to a 10 percent tax, dedicated to implementation costs, clinical trials, schools, roads, and municipalities where marijuana businesses are located; and changes several current violations from crimes to civil infractions.
Cities that also choose to opt out of the retail marijuana sales will not receive the tax proceeds collected from the sales nor collect the maximum annual fee of $5,000 per marijuana establishment.
The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs has about a year to review the ballot proposal terms and create rules before the recreational marijuana market is ready on a commercial level.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected].)