The Howell City Council is expected to begin marijuana-related discussions in a couple of months.

Thus far, all Livingston County communities and many throughout the state have chosen to opt-out of allowing all marijuana uses - although both medical and adult use marijuana sales are legal. The only municipality nearby that has is Webberville. The City of Howell earlier decided to opt-out and took a wait-and-see approach to see what the state would do with implementing a regulatory framework for adult use, which staff says seems to be working successfully. Council held a preliminary discussion at a recent meeting. Staff noted the openings of dispensaries throughout the state have been relatively smooth but there has been a shortage of product because many grow operations weren’t licensed in a timely fashion. It was stated the process is roughly what they thought it would be and the finances won’t save any community because it’s not a lot of money. Staff added that any fee they charge has to be directly related to the work they do and a share of tax dollars only comes back if a community opts-in to allow dispensaries.

Community Development Director Tim Schmitt said every community in Livingston County is basically looking at each other but none have opted in to allowing any type of marijuana use. He told Council the City gets inquiries on a weekly basis – with the majority asking about dispensaries but noted they also get fair amount of questions about growing. He said a number of people still don’t understand home growing provisions of the code so they get that question regularly. Schmitt said the biggest problem is that municipalities cannot truly regulate home grow operations. He says a big question is whether communities that have opted out of both medical and recreation use ordinances can continue prohibiting home grows - adding it’s really an open legal question but his default position has been it is not permitted because the City opted out.

On the medical marijuana side, it was noted there was initially a poor set of regulations didn’t really work. Mayor Pro-Tem Steve Manor questioned how things are now, to which Schmitt replied the regulations are working much better. Schmitt said the issue was that the medical marijuana law adopted by voters was extremely short, had no guidelines and the Republican-led legislature didn’t want to touch it for eight years. Schmitt said when push came to shove and the state finally put guidelines in place, there was already almost ten years of litigation and adult use was coming around the corner so they knew they had to get it right. He said now medical marijuana is functioning perfectly fine, as is adult use, it was just painful getting here.

It was noted all voting precincts in the city supported adult recreational use and the decriminalization of marijuana. However, it was also stated that dispensaries and grow operations are a whole separate issue. It was originally suggested Council put off the discussion for another six months. Councilman Bob Ellis noted the City has had the moratorium for a long time but there are now established regulations so he didn’t see any need to further restrict the businesses – adding he thinks the City should make a decision. Mayor Nick Proctor agreed, saying the reason the City opted out was to simply give the state time to come up with regulations. He said if staff is comfortable those are sufficient, then six months seemed a bit lengthy for discussion. Proctor further noted he’s been fielding questions from constituents asking how the City can override the will of the people, referring to those who voted to legalize recreational marijuana. Proctor said while they can always make presumptions, he encouraged members get a better sense of how constituents feel by chatting with them to gauge their positions. Councilwoman Jan Lobur preferred waiting six more months, questioning why Howell should be the first to opt in. Lobur said she was hesitant and wanted to wait and see what other communities do- adding she knows it’s reality but is also worried and concerned about it. Councilwoman Jeanette Ambrose questioned the impact on police department resources.

Council ultimately agreed to revisit the marijuana topic and have more serious discussions at the end of March. (JM)