The City of Howell is the latest local municipality to “opt out” of allowing marijuana related establishments for the time being.

City Council met Monday night and approved an ordinance that prohibits both medical and recreational marijuana facilities. There is no process established yet for businesses to apply to open marijuana facilities and the state needs to establish guidelines and rules for issuing licenses. It was noted during the meeting that by opting out, the City is really just saying “not yet”. Council has the ability to modify the ordinance and it can be repealed at any time so the City could embrace marijuana businesses if the state establishes implementation rules. The state has until December 6th of 2019 to develop implementation rules. If that doesn’t happen, then local jurisdictions will have control over regulations. There is still a lot of gray area after voters legalized the recreational use of pot. Recreational use among adults who are at least 21 can start Thursday.

City Manager Shea Charles says opting out of allowing the facilities for now was the recommendation of staff as the state begins to develop rules and regulations based on the ballot proposal. He says the City is taking the same position as pretty much all communities in the area to give the state a chance to get rules in place and then the city will evaluate what steps it wants to take. Charles says one of the concerns is that there are some different legal interpretations that arguably a business could have applied before the regulations were in place. He says not everyone agrees with that interpretation but a lot of communities are just erring on the side of caution to make sure it’s not an issue. Charles says the City has received inquiries over the years, as have most communities.

Councilman Bob Ellis again raised concerns about prohibiting the facilities and trying to overturn the will of the people. Ellis said he has no confidence that the state will ever develop any appropriate regulations – pointing out that the City had a moratorium on medical marijuana to be in effect until the state developed regulations but that never happened. Ellis said if there are people that want to establish businesses that are willing to take that risk and might be regulated out of existence at some point, he doesn’t want to stand in their way. He questioned what would happen if the City took no action and just allowed marijuana businesses to operate. Staff reiterated that there are still no state rules and in that scenario, the businesses would still be prohibited under local zoning regulations.

Members felt it would also be prudent to wait and see what comes out of the lame duck Michigan legislature. Mayor Pro-Tem Steve Manor commented it’s the intent of many of the legislative body to do whatever they can to inhibit the enacted law. (JM)