By Jessica Mathews /

The Village of Pinckney could be the first municipality to allow marijuana related facilities in Livingston County following Tuesday’s General Election.

Village elections are handled by Putnam Township and voters in precinct 3 approved the marijuana ballot proposal by 52.27%. The ballot proposal was put forth by Jobs For Pinckney, a grassroots group headed up by Sam Pernick of Oakland County. A minimum of 53 signatures were required to get the proposal on the ballot but there was confusion about which jurisdiction to file petitions, which led to lawsuits. The Michigan Court of Appeals ultimately ruled in favor of the group and ordered the proposal placed on the ballot. The Village earlier “opted-out” of allowing such establishments and had been waiting for guidance from the state like many other municipalities.

Incoming Council President Rebecca Foster spoke with WHMI before the vote was official. She said the Village over the last few weeks has been preparing for either scenario and their plan is to move forward with what’s best for the Village no matter what the outcome. Foster said she thinks Council felt this particular ordinance - not the concept – was not the best way forward for the community. Foster said it was important for people to know they’ll move forward with some zoning and licensing processes and ordinances. Had it been a no vote, she said they would still be pursuing that and coming up with an ordinance and processes that would have been better suited to the village. Foster said they’ll need to move really quickly because the ordinance has some really impossible deadlines in it. She says the Planning Commission has already discussed appropriate zoning districts as well as other land use and site plan processes and has been moving forward as best it can to address either situation. Foster stressed they want to do what’s in the best interest of the Village and Council was not really convinced that specific ordinance was in that best interest.

The ordinance would allow for up to ten businesses. It would also require the clerk to develop systems for licensing and regulating those businesses within 30 days of the initial application window. The language read that if adopted, the proposal would “provide for the number of Marihuana Establishments within the Village, including regulatory and application provisions incidental to a system of safe and legal access to marijuana within the municipality”.

Pernick told WHMI they’re very grateful to the voters for approving the proposal and ordinance, saying it’s been a long road to get here. He noted they had to go to the Michigan Court of Appeals twice to get the measure on the ballot and the court ruled twice in their favor. Even after that, Pernick says they felt there was a lot of misinformation about the proposal but glad voters saw through it. He said they were glad the voters chose to adopt the proposed ordinance and vote for the Village to start allowing cannabis and marijuana businesses and all of the economic development, revenue and jobs that come with it. From here, Pernick said it’s about swift implementation of the ordinance – noting it is pretty clear cut and lays out a timeline for businesses to apply for a license among other items. He said hopefully next year they’ll see businesses receiving provisional licenses to open up shop in Pinckney. Pernick said Pinckney is the first municipality in the entire county of Livingston to opt-in, which is a county of almost 200,000 people. He says that will allow important local access to help medical marijuana patients who won’t have to drive to Lansing, Ann Arbor or elsewhere for medicine. Pernick said he thinks the ordinance is pretty clear cut as it has already been argued in court and thinks it’s time to respect the will of the voters and the democratic process. He noted over 63% of voters supported legalizing marijuana in 2018 and there was now an almost 9-point margin in favor of approving the ordinance.

Council has described the ordinance as “one size fits all” with certain requirements and approvals that must be done in 30 days, which members agreed seem to be set up to ram through people who are already prepared to open up shop. Council members have repeatedly stated they’re not necessarily opposed to the prospect of marijuana-related establishments but rather the process that played out and a court battle that ordered the question on the ballot. Council members have expressed opposition to forcing an ordinance on a small village – noting it’s already legal and Pinckney is not trying to stop marijuana. It was earlier stated the ordinance doesn’t fit the Village, which lacks the administrative infrastructure to administer the process. Multiple members also commented that there would be very minimal income as being advertised in fliers and result in significant costs to the Village.

The proposal and an associated ordinance passed by 117 votes. The full ordinance can be viewed on the Village of Pinckney website. That link is provided.