Dozens of Michigan communities are voting to ban marijuana shops

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In a sea of blue that represents the overwhelming number of yes votes that Oakland County residents lodged to legalize marijuana, the city of Troy stands out.

In the county’s map of election results, Troy residents — by narrow margins in nearly every precinct — voted against legal weed with a final tally of 19,508 "no" votes and 18,528 "yes" votes. In the rest of the county, the map shows wide swaths of support and voters approved the measure 59 to 41 percent.

The Troy City Council, which already had banned medical marijuana businesses from the city, took note of the vote just six days after the election.

“Council DIRECTS City Administration to draft an ordinance opting out of recreational marijuana facilities,” the seven members of the council said unanimously in supporting a resolution to ban marijuana businesses from the city.

Troy joins dozens of other communities around the state to just say no to marijuana businesses. In some cases, like in Troy, it’s the desire to keep weed out of the city’s business landscape. In others, the decision to eschew the businesses and the tax revenues that would come from pot sales in their towns is more of a temporary choice while they wait for the state to set the rules and regulations that will govern the fledgling recreational marijuana market.

In Livonia, where voters passed marijuana legalization by 55 to 45 percent, the council also voted Dec. 3 to opt out of the recreational weed businesses, but kicked the issue into a committee to look at options for the future.

“I don’t think Livonia is ever going to be the Wild Open West,” when it comes to marijuana, said City Attorney Paul Bernier. “Livonia tends to be a conservative town. People who wanted to see it decriminalized didn’t necessarily want to see a ‘Weed Is Us’ on Plymouth Road.”

Under the ballot proposal, communities have to either pass a resolution to prohibit marijuana businesses or adopt an ordinance that would regulate such businesses. If they vote to ban the businesses, they won’t get any of the tax revenue from the 10 percent excise tax on recreational weed sales. That money will be dedicated to schools, road improvements and the communities that let the businesses in.

So far, dozens of communities across the state have opted out, according to an unofficial list from the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. Meanwhile, at least 109 communities have already passed ordinances to allow medical marijuana businesses in their towns.

Many more places will take up such opt-out resolutions in the coming year, predicted Scott Greenlee, executive director of Healthy and Productive Michigan, which campaigned against the legalization and is helping communities draft opt-out resolutions.

“We’re probably working with close to 100. And there are many more than that who are waiting for the first of the year,” he said. “They’re telling us they want as little marijuana around their community as possible. And a lot of these communities would opt out of allowing people to possess it, too.”

Even in communities where voters overwhelmingly supported legal weed, councils are voting to opt out of having businesses that sell marijuana.

In Royal Oak, voters passed legal pot by 70 to 30 percent. But you wouldn’t know that by the 4-3 vote city commissioners took last month to prohibit marijuana businesses in the Oakland County town, at least for the near future.

“Once the state comes up with licensing guidelines, if the commission wants to revisit and opt into allowing establishments, the city might want to consider medical and recreational businesses,” said Timothy Thwing director of Community Development for the city. “But right now, we need a clear statement from the city that, no, you can’t do this.”

The city has been getting bombarded with calls from marijuana entrepreneurs who want to invest in the city, Thwing said, adding he doesn’t want businesses to make significant investments in buildings and equipment before getting a definitive answer on whether businesses will be allowed in town.

While the commission complied with Thwing’s recommendation, City Commissioner Kyle DuBac said the only clear statement that should be considered is the one sent by voters Nov. 6.

“Six days ago, 70 percent of Royal Oak residents voted yes on proposal 1,” he said during the Nov. 12 meeting. "This seems completely out of balance with our residents. For us to say no we’re not going to do that, flies in the face of our residents.”

But Royal Oak Mayor Mark Fournier said he wants more than just the election results to guide the city’s future with marijuana.

“It’s important to make sure we’re not acting at the last moment and it becomes the wild west here,” Fournier said during the November meeting. “I want to make sure we have a thoughtful process in place with a lot of community input.”

Next door in Ferndale, where voters approved the marijuana proposal by 84 percent to 16,  the city already has adopted an ordinance to allow up to five medical marijuana dispensaries and a testing facility in the city, although none have been licensed by the state yet.

“And we don’t anticipate opting out of the recreational market,” said Mayor Dave Coulter. “We’ve given ourselves a May 1 deadline to come up with recommendations for the recreational market.”

Birmingham, where the downtown is populated by upscale retailers and restaurants, the council also voted to prohibit marijuana, even though voters passed the proposal by 61 to 39 percent.

“The decision was made to let’s get more information and not move so quickly until more is known and (state) regulations are in place,” said Kevin Byrnes, communications director for the city.

Michael Whitty, a Birmingham resident and supporter of the marijuana legalization, said he’s not upset by the city's action.

“It doesn’t trouble me,” he said. “As a proponent, my main concern is I simply want to end marijuana arrests. Converting conservative city councils (on allowing businesses in) is the next round and that might take a few years.”

The marijuana legalization proposal allows people 21 or older to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana on their person and up to 10 ounces in their homes as long as it’s locked up. It also allows people to grow up to 12 plants in their homes for personal use.

Legal weed won’t be commercially available for sale until the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs comes up with the rules and regulations to govern the recreational marijuana industry by December 2019 and begins awarding licenses to marijuana businesses by early 2020.

Although the list is not complete, the towns that have voted to prohibit marijuana businesses are: Royal Oak; Bloomfield Township; Birmingham; Livonia; Plymouth; Monroe; Brown City; Portage; Sault Ste Marie; the Villages of Port Sanilac, Carsonville, Mackinaw City and Melvin; and the townships Ingham, Elmer, Minden, Newberg, Volinia, Brady, Prairie Ronde, Ada, Ashland, Cheshire, Maple Valley, Columbus, Charleston, Burtchbill, Frenchtown, Lamont, Washington, Watertown, Bridgehampton and Speaker.

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