Local cities weigh options after recreational marijuana legalized statewide

By ZEINAB NAJM
Times-Herald Newspapers

Elected officials, police chiefs and legal departments in Dearborn and Dearborn Heights are taking their time while they consider options on how to move forward after the statewide proposal to legalize recreational marijuana was approved in the Nov. 6 general election.

Locally, Dearborn voters were split on the decision with 16,299 votes for legalization to 16,277 against. Dearborn Heights voters were more decisively for legalization, 10,232 to 8,396. On the state level, the proposal passed with a 56 to 44 percent margin with 2,344,450 votes for and 1,849,005 votes against.

According to Vote411.org, the marijuana legalization initiative is a, “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 proposal would allow individuals 21 and older to purchase, possess and use marijuana and marijuana-infused edibles, and grow up to 12 marijuana plants for personal consumption; impose a 10-ounce limit for marijuana kept at residences and require amounts over 2.5 ounces be secured in locked containers; create a state licensing system for marijuana businesses and allow municipalities to ban or restrict them; permit 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 change several current violations from crimes to civil infractions.

The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs will have about a year to review the ballot proposal terms and create rules before the recreational marijuana market is ready on a commercial level.

For the city of Dearborn, that one year review time did not stop the council and legal department from preparing for the vote.

Dearborn Corporation Counsel Debra Walling said she prepared a purposed ordinance for the council to opt out of marijuana establishments being located in Dearborn for now.

She said the proposal was for the council’s consideration until all the rules are put in place by the state and that the council could amend the ordinance if it choose to do so later on.

During the Nov. 8 committee of the whole meeting, the ordinance was tabled until the council’s Nov. 13 meeting for further discussion, and no other action was taken.

“One of the strongest reasons I think that the city feels its best for us to opt out is there’s no regulations and rules really in place yet for these establishments,”

Council President Susan Dabaja said: “It took a while for them to do it for the medical marijuana — it took a few years for them to set that up so you can only imagine it’s going to be a few years. We’re not ready to get into that until there’s certain rules and we can always opt in. So it’s not permanent.”

Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad said he is concerned with growth odor, access to marijuana teenagers could have, and the role of local law enforcements.

“Users will be able to grow 12 plants at their homes and we already receive complaints about marijuana odor,” he said. “Another thing would be the added and unrest burden on law enforcement, in that we will have to inspect, be involved or be responsible in the licensing process.”

Haddad has voiced concern from a social standpoint, saying that the consequences of an abundance of marijuana could readily put the plant in the hands of young people.

Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. was unavailable for comment.

In Dearborn Heights, the council and administration have had discussions during study sessions on the possibility of legal recreational marijuana, but no decision has been made.

Dearborn Heights Corporation Counsel Gary Miotke said the city does not have a prepared ordinance on opting in or out, but is waiting for further discussions with the administration, council and newly sworn police chief.

Mayor Daniel Paletko, Council Chairwoman Denise Maxwell and Police Chief Dan Voltattorni did not respond to phone calls by press time.

While both cities wait for further discussions or for the state to set regulations, there won’t be any recreational marijuana dispensaries opening in the cities soon.

Marijuana will be legal 10 days after the election results are certified, but that does not mean it will be available commercially for a couple years as Dabaja pointed out.

(Zeinab Najm can be reached at zeinabnajm92@gmail.com.)