TUESDAY, Jan. 8 —Despite widespread voter support, elected officials in Delta Township have turned their backs on the recreational marijuana market with a unanimous vote to ban the industry within their borders.
The Delta Township Board voted, 5-0, yesterday to adopt an ordinance that outlaws recreational pot shops and prevents retail sales in the township. Officials said the prohibition is designed to take a “conservative” approach to the yet-to-be-developed industry while the state is expected to launch licensing parameters later this year.
“It’s best to wait until the state puts together the licensing for recreational marijuana use,” explained Township Supervisor Kenneth Fletcher. “Once we know the rules of the game, if there’s a desire on the board, we can revisit that and see if we want to allow any facilities to be licensed. It’s a ban that could be reconsidered.”
Michigan voters, 56 percent to 44 percent, passed Proposal 1 in November to legalize the possession and adult use of marijuana. The law also enables eventual commercial sales, but those are still at least a year away. Local municipalities, in the meantime, have the option to restrict certain facets or ban the fledgling industry outright.
State election margins are mirrored in Delta Township, where nearly 10,000 residents — or about 56 percent — voted for Proposal One. A local resident said during public comment: Will Delta Township officials respect the will of their constituents?
For Fletcher, it’s a complex answer.
“I wouldn’t say we’re necessarily going against the will of the voters,” he said. “Voters approved recreational marijuana and that’s allowed everywhere and will be allowed within Delta Township like the rest of the state. We just didn’t want to allow any business until the state can get the licenses up and running on the business end.”
An outright prohibition — should it remain — would also leave thousands of dollars in potential municipal revenue on the table. Proposal 1 outlines a maximum of $5,000 that local municipalities can charge in application fees for each individual applicant, as well as a host of other locally controllable restrictions.
But Township Clerk Mary Clark said many residents simply don’t want dispensaries in their neighborhoods.
“I’m not interpreting anything,” Clark added. “You can’t say that because it passed that everybody was voting for pot shops down Saginaw Highway. It’s not interchangeable. The biggest part — with people I talked to — was that they wanted to smoke marijuana in their home without worrying. I think that drove a lot of it.
“I hadn’t had one person call me — and I’m engaged with my voters — and say, ‘Please make sure you get this.’ People I’ve talked to are like ‘Hell no, I don’t want pot shops on every corner. I don’t want to look like Lansing.’”
Fletcher emphasized that officials could eventually decide to reconsider allowing a limited number of dispensaries or growing facilities. The board, however, has not opted into any licensing framework for the medical marijuana industry and has no intentions to do so soon.
“I know some businesses are trying to get up and running now, but we’re just not ready for that,” Fletcher said.
Delta Township is the only known municipality in Eaton County to prohibit retail recreational sales. Only Ingham Township, near the village of Dansville, and the city of Williamston have opted out within Ingham County. Dallas and Greenbush townships in Clinton County have also done so.
Nearby, Lansing Mayor Andy Schor said he would veto any effort by the City Council to inch away from recreational away. All members of the East Lansing City Council has expressed support of retail recreational sales. Voters in both cities also widely voted to approve the new law.
“I will respect that vote,” Schor added. “We will allow for regulation of recreational marijuana in the same responsible way that we are enforcing the regulations of medical marijuana. And I am disappointed in anyone who tries to tear down Lansing in order to justify the decisions they choose to make.”
Both cities — unlike Delta Township — also moved to embrace the medical facets of the marijuana industry through ordinances. In Ingham County, they’re the only two municipalities to allow for dispensaries aside from Meridian Township. Webberville along with Lansing and Leslie townships allow for other industry operations like growing facilities.
Only Windsor Township in Eaton County has allowed for some elements of the medical marijuana industry.
Visit lansingcitypulse.com for previous and continued coverage on statewide marijuana regulation.