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  • Kevin Elliott

Rochester preempts recreational marijuana

The possibility of recreational marijuana becoming legal in Michigan following the November 6 general election led Rochester City Council members on Monday, October 22, to introduce a city ordinance prohibiting marijuana establishments in the city.

"As you are aware, on the November 6, 2018 ballot, there is an initiative put forth by the voters to allow recreational marijuana use and various marijuana establishments," Rochester City Attorney Jeffrey Kragt said in a memo to council. "Unlike the Medical Marijuana Act, the Michigan Regulation and Taxation Marijuana Act (MRTMA) requires a municipality to "opt out" from allowing marijuana establishments to be located in the city. The medical marijuana legislation prohibits medical marijuana facilities unless the municipality 'opts in.'"

While voters have not yet determined the fate of the proposal, an approval would require the city to take action to prohibit marijuana establishments. With that possibility looming, Kragt said the council may want to introduce an ordinance prior to the election, then consider finalizing and adopting it after the election, if it were to pass.

Councilman Dean Bevacqua said he had some concerns about creating policy on something that is still being considered by voters. Further, he questioned whether the city should prohibit something that would be legal under state law.

"The concept of saying that something that is possibly allowed to be legal for recreational use isn't allowed in our city when we have alcohol – which is a drug – allowed for recreational use," he said. "I'm a little concerned of banning something that is (potentially) legal."

Councilwoman Ann Peterson quickly rebutted the concerns, noting that marijuana is still a controlled substance that isn't legal under federal law, despite conflicting state laws.

"I would like to protect our community and our youth," Peterson said about the apparent threat of marijuana use.

Council approved the first reading of the ordinance with all members, including Bevacqua, voting in favor of the ordinance, and councilman Ben Giovanelli absent.

A second reading and adoption of the ordinance will be considered on Monday, November 12, if the state-wide ballot proposal to legalize marijuana for recreational use and the MRTM Act passes by voters on November 6.

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