MI: What Happens In Local Municipalities If Recreational Marijuana Is Legalized

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Local municipalities won’t have much control over the use of marijuana if it appears on the ballot and passes this November.

Some areas have publicly opposed the use of recreational marijuana through a resolution written by Lakeshore Regional Entity. This is ahead of the measure being placed on the November ballot if petitioners have gathered enough valid signatures.

Al Dannenberg, an Ottawa County commissioner, has brought the resolution to Zeeland, Zeeland Township and is planning on bringing to to Holland Township for a vote, and says more municipalities are planned by other officials.

“If we wait until it’s on the ballot, we’re sometimes running defense instead of offense,” he said.

So far, both Zeeland and Zeeland Township have voted to adopt the resolution, which is meant to “encourage others to oppose the recreational use of marijuana for general use, including the adoption of similar resolutions in opposition of the general use of legalization of non-medical marijuana.”

The resolution cites negative effects on youth, increases in car crashes related to people being under the influence and other statistics.

But if it’s on the ballot and approved by voters, local control would be minimal. A resolution only provides a formal stance on an issue by a government.

“If it passes, it passes,” Dannenberg said. “We’re trying to educate people as we’re going along.

“We’re not telling somebody how to vote, but what we would really like everybody to do is ask questions. Look at the facts and see if then you want to vote for it.”

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol has turned in about 365,000 signatures to the state in hopes of getting its legislation on the November ballot. The proposal is awaiting signature review; there is a 252,523 signature requirement for it to be on the ballot.

If voted in, it would legalize the recreational use and possession of marijuana for people 21 years or older, and enact a tax on sales. This is currently illegal in Michigan. The use of medical marijuana was approved in 2008 by voters; both practices are illegal under federal law.

Individuals would be permitted to grow up to 12 marijuana plants in their homes. The measure would create an excise sales tax of 10 percent, which would be levied on marijuana sales at retailers. Revenue would be allocated from the taxes to local governments, K-12 education and the repair and maintenance of roads and bridges.

Proponents say that prohibiting marijuana has been a “failure,” and is wasteful of law enforcement resources. This was echoed by Nick Zettell, board member of MILegalize, a statewide grassroots organization to end marijuana prohibition.

Zettell said his organization believes allowing recreational use would be a “huge boom” to the economy by creating jobs, reduce the tax burden and bring in revenue for schools and roads in local communities.

According to Zettell, local governments would be able to opt out of the licensing growing, processing or retail facilities, but the municipalities that opt in would get more from tax revenue.

In the last few years, voters have legalized recreational use in eight states: Colorado, California, Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

If passed, establishments would be prohibited from being located in an area zoned only for residential use, or within 1,000 feet of a school unless a local government adopts an ordinance reducing the distance requirement.

Beyond that, local control is minimal.

That’s why Lakeshore Regional Entity first proposed the opposing resolution that’s circulating local municipalities and agencies in multiple counties. The organization serves seven counties, most of which have passed the resolution. Ottawa County approved it unanimously in May.

Stephanie VanDerKooi, substance use disorder director of Lakeshore Regional Entity, said the reasoning of detrimental impacts of recreational use. She said it’s not safe for people operating machinery, and if someone is caught under the influence, this could be an issue for companies that have to answer to federal agencies, like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

VanDerKooi said her organization also believes it will increase the amount of people that abuse the drug.

With other marijuana laws, like allowing medical marijuana facilities, municipalities have the power to choose, and a number of local ones have adopted policies banning those types of facilities, like in Holland, Zeeland Township, Holland Township, Zeeland and Saugatuck. In Saugatuck Township, this regulation doesn’t exist; whether to regulate in any way is currently being discussed at the planning commission level.

While there are lots of varying opinions on the possible legalization, Zettell is confident it will appear on the ballot and be approved by Michigan voters, leaving local municipalities to follow state law.

“We just need to make sure we’re doing everything we can to help spread awareness about our proposal, and to make sure voters have a chance to voice their opinion by voting for legalization,” he said.