Warren City Council tables Recreational Marijuana proposal
Outgoing councilman says Warren is missing out on tax revenue.
A resolution to bring recreational marijuana to Warren was tabled by City Council after a discussion that became heated at times Tuesday.
Councilman Ronald Papandrea introduced the proposal which he said was meant to establish recreational marijuana in the city.
“I am a friend of the marijuana industry and a friend of any legal business that wants to come to Warren,” said Papandrea.
Currently, there are 15 medical marijuana licenses that have been awarded in Warren, but the city’s licensing process has been in court for more than four years with the case currently waiting for the Michigan Supreme Court to determine if it will hear an action that has already been through Macomb County Circuit Court and the Michigan State Court of Appeals.
Controversy was sparked in October of 2019 when the city’s marijuana review committee, of which Papandrea was a member, submitted their assessment of more than 60 applicants to the Warren City Council. Based on those recommendations, the council selected 15 recipients to which medical marijuana licenses would be awarded.
Several companies that did not receive licenses immediately filed lawsuits in Macomb County Circuit Court stating the committee’s scoring system for applicants was flawed and that the body had violated the OMA multiple times. Judge Carl Marlinga ruled that the committee did indeed violate the OMA by holding some 13 meetings that were not open to the general public and in April of 2020, ruled all licenses issued by the committee were invalid.
The Michigan Court of Appeals issued a decision in August 2022 ruling the 15 licenses originally granted are valid and that the city’s marijuana review committee did not violate the Open Meetings Act during the process of evaluating and scoring applicants.
The City Council has the option to approve recreational licenses using a separate process from the awarding of the medical licenses. Recreational licenses would not necessarily be awarded to the businesses already in possession of a medical license.
Papandrea’s proposal calls for giving the 15 companies that have a medical license an option to get a recreational license and the issuance of five non co-located recreational licenses.
“The biggest issue I have with this is the impact it would have on the case that is now before the Supreme Court,” said City Council attorney Jeffrey Schroder.
Schroder recommended Andrea Pike, the attorney representing the city in the medical marijuana case, have input into what impact adoption of the resolution would have on the pending case.
“Ms. Pike has a lot of input on this and she is willing to write a memo to Council and get that done in a timely fashion and it would be good to get her input,” said Schroder. “If we vote on this without being aware of the impact it might have on the Supreme Court case, that could be troublesome.
“If the City Council wants to move forward with this I think there is a path to do that, but the Council needs to be fully informed and the public needs to be fully informed.”
The City Council’s attorney also recommended officials make all edits to the proposal before taking a vote.
“We have to have this in a proper format before it is adopted on a first reading,” Schroder said.
When Councilman Garry Watts asked Papandrea who wrote the proposal he introduced, the discussion became heated. Papandrea said “numerous lawyers” worked on the document and accused Watts of not reading the proposal because “it doesn’t involve real grass and grass cutting so your interest is not piqued.”
Watts responded by saying Papandrea is partially responsible for the city being embroiled in the current medical marijuana licensing lawsuit. The two councilmen shouted at each other with Papandrea repeatedly shouting “cut the grass” in reference to Watts’ regularly discussing blighted property in the city during council meetings.
Council took a short recess after which discussion continued.
“We have recreational all around us and Warren is missing out on millions of tax dollars by not having recreational marijuana,” Papandrea said.
Watts said he did not think there was a reason to move forward with any such ordinance before the current court case is settled.
The City Council voted 6-1 to table the resolution.