A City of Belleville official received a request from someone interested in setting up a marijuana shop in the city, so on Monday the City Council voted unanimously to establish a 120-day moratorium while the city attorney studies the issue.
A statewide medical marijuana law was passed by voter referendum last fall, but the law does not address how the marijuana is to be distributed, said city attorney John Day.
He said there are three ways to address the issue in Belleville:
1. Anything that’s a violation of federal law is a violation of local ordinance. He did not recommend taking this stance.
2. Zoning. Find areas suited to the business and restrict the businesses to those areas.
3. Licensing. Establish certain restrictions.
Day said he would recommend both the zoning approach – where the businesses can be located (such as 1,000 feet from churches and schools) – and the drafting of licensing requirements (such as hours of operation, picture ID for personnel, security of the location, etc.).
“I would be open to suggestions,” Day said.
Councilwoman Kim Tindall asked what would happen to a city ordinance if the state makes some rules and Day said the state is not jumping in on this issue, since it is “a hot potato.”
“Is there any way to say no?” asked Mayor Richard Smith, and attorney Day said this is a permitted use and cannot be zoned out.
“I don’t see how our little community should spend even one cent at this point…,” said resident Mike Renaud, noting once Belleville has its “ducks in a row” a marijuana distributor could move in and start business.
Day said if he was “a big gun” he would look at the small town of Belleville as a perfect place for such a business, since it is so close to the freeways, and maybe wouldn’t be able to fight off the big guys.
Walter Epps, who is running for Wayne County Sheriff this fall, was in the audience and offered some of his knowledge on the subject.
“Right now there’s nothing in place on the distribution… and this is in our favor … If Miss April here [he referred to a young woman sitting next to him in the council chambers] has a prescription… If I was a caregiver, I can have up to five plants per person, but the law doesn’t say where you get the marihuana in the first place,” Epps said.
Resident Cornell Anton said he voted for medical marijuana because he thought a doctor would write a prescription and a person would go to the pharmacy and get a pill or something.
“Voters were thinking medical,” Anton said.
DPW Director Keith Boc said the Department of Public Health considers caregivers as pharmacists.
“It’s better to have something in place,” Day emphasized.
Austin Smith of The View said there is a dispensary in Ypsilanti where people can go in and smoke.
“They snuck in before the city acted,” Smith said.
Renaud asked again, “You can’t tell them no?”
“You can’t, but you can regulate them,” Day said, adding the city can regulate whether they can smoke on the premises.
A man who did not identify himself said he was disgusted with the whole situation, adding marijuana is against federal law, so how can the state supercede that? He said the country’s military is fighting to get rid of cocaine poppies in Afghanistan and at home the citizens are legalizing a drug.
“This is limited to medical marijuana,” Day emphasized.
“There must be a lot of potheads in Michigan,” the man replied.
Former mayor-pro tem Kay Atkins suggested putting the drug outlet inside the pharmaceutical outlet in town.
Day said he will study the law further. He said the statute does not require a doctor’s prescription for medical marijuana, but a doctor has to say there is a benefit.
Members of the audience agreed that it was too late to stop the statewide law.
“The ship has sailed,” Smith noted.
Boc said any zoning ordinance has to go to the planning commission first, so a suggested 90-day moratorium was not enough time.
Mayor Pro Tem Rick Dawson made the motion to enact a 120-day moratorium on any new locations under the medical marijuana law, which the council passed unanimously.
In other business Monday, the council:
* In response to a question by Renaud, heard Mayor Smith reply that the financial numbers projected for the city weren’t as good as they should be. City Manager Diana Kollmyer said because of the decrease in taxable value, the city has asked consultants for new financial projections which will be presented to the public after the council members and business representatives get a look at them;
* Approved the VFW’s request to hold the annual Buddy Poppy sales at eight intersections in the city on May 6, 7, and 8, to earn money for various good works, mainly for veterans. VFW representative Anton said VFW Post 4434 sells more poppies than any other post in the U.S., some 7,000 to 8,000. He said this year they have lost the sales at GM-Willow Run, so they will be relying on the community for donations. Mayor Pro Tem Dawson did not vote on the council approval since he is a “proud member” of Post 4434;
* Tabled the request of the Belleville Area Women’s Club for recognition as a non-profit organization so they can sponsor charitable gambling events because no one from the group was present to answer questions;
* Approved the Belleville-Area Council for the Arts request to hold a Fishing Day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 12 at Horizon Park. Atkins, president of the arts council, said this is the day of the state’s free fishing day. The local event will be a Fishing Photo and Tall Tale Contest with a hot dog lunch for participants. “My theory always has been: If you feed them, they will come,” she said. Participants may be from two or three years old to 103, Atkins said. She will be seeking volunteers to help. Dawson abstained from this vote, too, because he is a member of the arts council;
* Discussed what to do next about the city-owned, lakeside parcel at 100 N. Liberty Street that was approved “un-parked” by voters last fall and is expected to be sold by sealed bid. City engineers will study the abandoned site, which holds a small building. There are manholes that the city will need to retain access to, but the building would be demolished before sale – but only after the engineers see what is inside;
* Voted to “do nothing” about the class action lawsuit brought by the City of Riverview having to do with unfunded mandates from the state on water outflows. By not opting out, the city will be a part of the lawsuit;
* Approved a timetable for working on this year’s budget. City Manager Kollmeyer will present a proposed budget to the council on May 3. The council will review the budget in sessions set for 6 p.m. May 10 and 12 and 7:30 p.m. May 17. A budget hearing will be held on June 7 and the budget adopted;
* Approved accounts payable of $184,482.39 and the following departmental expenditures over $500: Barrett Paving, $510.05 for cold patch; Evans Electric, $1,085 for garage door for the senior building; Evans Electric, $865 for repair/light Main Street; Evans Electric, $3,365 to repair conduit; Northville Charter Twp., $5,000 for SWAT participation for 2010; and Wayne County, $595 for lodging in Dickerson Facility;
* Heard Dawson announce that the last library board meeting was held last week and the newly approved district library board is scheduled to begin meeting April 1;
* Heard Atkins draw attention to the Belleville Area Council for the Arts classified ad in theIndependent which is selling manure for gardens. “Everybody else is spreading the stuff in town; we can too,” Atkins said; and
* Heard Anton remark that this evening’s lighthearted meeting was one of the most enjoyable meetings he had attended in a long time.
At 8:40 p.m., the council voted unanimously to go into closed-door session to discuss purchase of real property prior to obtaining an option or lease.