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Posted on: December 6, 2018

Pressing Pause on Marihuana Sales

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The passing of proposal one on Nov. 6, 2018, allowing the individual use and possession of recreational marihuana, also provided each Michigan municipality with the option to ban or restrict marihuana-related businesses.

At its Monday, Dec. 3 meeting, the City Commission voted to place a temporary ban on the commercial growth and retail sale of marihuana within East Grand Rapids’ business district. The Commission will review the matter again before June 6, 2020, after rules and regulations have been put in place by the State of Michigan.

This ordinance was adopted with an immediate effective date, so that it could be in place on Dec. 6, before potential marihuana merchants could be granted licenses to sell in East Grand Rapids.

During the meeting, EGR city officials stressed that this isn’t a permanent ban, but a temporary pause until they have a better understanding of how the State licensing system and regulations will work. While it’s estimated the State will take about one year to develop and implement regulations, the City would have difficulty enforcing the control of the sale of the substance in the meantime.

Neither this action nor future decisions infringe on residents’ individual rights to use marihuana as approved by voters.

Before deciding whether or not to place this temporary ban, the commissioners wanted to hear residents’ opinions in the time between the two city commission meetings. To acquire feedback, the City solicited residents’ opinions through a survey on whether marihuana businesses should be temporarily prohibited within city limits until Michigan provided rules and regulations. The survey remained on the City website for one week. The results were presented to the commissioners showing that 64 percent of survey participants were not in favor of allowing marihuana-related businesses in EGR for the time being.

Commissioners weighed these survey results and the voices of the residents in attendance into their decision at the Dec. 3 meeting. Ultimately, they moved to temporarily prohibit marihuana-related businesses not only to allow the State to implement concrete rules and regulations, but also to allow for a more thorough discussion from residents in the following months.

The June 6, 2020 expiration date was added to the ordinance to ensure that this issue is revisited once the state regulations and licensing procedures are in place. Should the state provide regulations before the end of its one-year limit, the City can then decide whether to repeal the ordinance, extend the ordinance or to adopt a new ordinance with local provisions. By passing this ordinance, city officials hope to eliminate the risk of potential merchants acquiring licenses before the City is able to make an informed final decision. Again, this ordinance has no effect on the individual use of the substance.

“This ordinance is essentially a pause,” said City attorney John Huff. “Without any regulations from the State, East Grand Rapids cannot make any logical, informed decisions on whether or not allowing marihuana-related businesses would be conducive for the City. Furthermore, this ordinance does not foreshadow the officials’ final decision—it is simply a ‘no for now’ with a promise to revisit the situation.”                                            

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