As expected, Saline City Council voted to “opt out” of retail marijuana businesses. However, at the suggestion of Mayor Brian Marl, council also agreed to re-examine the issue when the state has regulatory and licensing procedures in place.
Council voted unanimously to approve the opt-out language.
Citizens of Michigan voted to legalize recreational marijuana in November. The ballot proposal gives municipalities the right to opt out of allowing marijuana businesses in their jurisdictions.
At a previous council meeting, council reached consensus it would opt out of marijuana businesses – though their concerns were vague. Council appeared worried allowing marijuana businesses might leave the city vulnerable until the state creates its regulatory framework.
Mayor Brian Marl is the one member of council who has publicly state an opinion on the marijuana legalization proposal. While he was personally opposed to the plan, he’s also one of two council members who’ve shown any interest in giving citizens the ability to buy the now-legal substance in their own community. Marl said he was “very torn” on the marijuana business issue. He said voted against the November ballot proposal because it was “inartfully written.” At the same time, more than 57 percent of Saline residents voted to legalize marijuana. Marl has said several times he respects the sanctity of elections and noted the proposal won by a landslide in Saline.
Marl went along with a majority of council in supporting the “opt out” option, but suggested the city revisit the issue in six months.
“Let’s see where the state is with its regulatory framework and licensing procedures. It doesn’t mean we would make any changes at that time,” Marl said.
Councilor Christen Mitchell also said she was more open to retail marijuana establishments after speaking with residents and business owners.
Councilor Janet Dillon said if the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs develops procedures before then, city council shouldn’t wait to review them. Marl saw Dillon’s point as friendly.
Councilor Jack Ceo, former Deputy Police Chief for Saline, recently attended a police chiefs association meeting with Saline Chief Jerrod Hart. Speakers including prosecuting attorneys from Wayne and Oakland counties.
“Both offered the opinion that people might be well served to opt out at this time and give the state as much as three to five years to figure out how this will settle out,” Ceo said. “I think we’re being very optimistic if we expect anything at the six-month juncture.”
City Attorney Roger Swets explained that after a year, if the state hasn’t come up with regulations and the city hasn’t opted out, the city could face a “free-for-all” and “anything would be allowed.”
The city’s law firm has drafted an ordinance prohibiting commercial marijuana establishments. It will go before the planning commission in January.
Voters can overrule city council’s decision to opt out. A petition signed by a little more than 250 registered voters would put the question on a referendum during the next regular election.
The city does not allow medical marijuana dispensaries.
Council also discussed other regulations on personal use of marijuana. Should council prohibit public consumption of marijuana? Should marijuana consumption be allowed in private clubs? Should the city set an age limit for consumption? While the state may rule on these issues eventually, the city could adopt its own rules, Swets said.