By Michael P. McConnell, Daily Tribune Staff Writer
FERNDALE — The City Council on Monday will decide whether to expand the number of zones in the city where medical marijuana businesses are allowed.
Council members are set to discuss if pot businesses should also be allowed in the commercial districts along Woodward Avenue or mixed-use districts along Livernois, Hilton and part of Eight Mile Road.
City Manager Robert Bruner recommends that officials hold off on making any changes.
“The decision is up to the council, but I think we should take some time to evaluate this (marijuana zoning) policy further and see how it works out,” he said. “If changes are needed to the zoning we can do that in the future.”
The council this summer passed an ordinance allowing pot businesses in districts zoned for offices and light and heavy industrial operations.
After council members recently instituted a $2,000 licensing fee for any medical marijuana businesses, they decided to again look at the zoning issue.
Mayor Craig Covey said he is unsure how the council will vote on expanding the zoning for pot businesses, though he personally favors supporting such businesses.
“I think there’s a fair amount of support on council, but it’s obviously up in the air with the sheriff sort of attacking these businesses,” he said.
Oakland County sheriff’s deputies raided pot dispensaries in Waterford Township and Ferndale in August, along with private homes in Oakland and Macomb counties. More than 20 people connected with the dispensaries now face criminal charges of illegally growing and selling marijuana. Law enforcement officials in Oakland have said Michigan’s medical marijuana law makes no provisions for commercial pot dispensaries or growing operations and how to regulate them. Many, including municipal officials around the state, are hoping a test case in court or consideration by lawmakers in Lansing will eventually clear up legal ambiguities.
Clinical Relief on Hilton is the only medical marijuana business in Ferndale. About 10 people connected with the clinic are among those facing criminal charges.
Some cities have adopted moratoriums on medical marijuana businesses while they study the issue; others, such as Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills, have bans in place. Royal Oak has extended its moratorium and city commissioners are considering a ban on pot businesses.
Covey said there are models for marijuana businesses that work in other communities such as Oakland, Calif.
“The raids in Ferndale and Waterford had a chilling effect and the movement toward reaching some sort of stability where people are legally able to obtain their medicine,” he said. “It’s stressful for local governments who are trying to figure it out as well.”
While some other communities like Royal Oak have extended moratoriums on pot businesses, Bruner said that wouldn’t have been the right approach for Ferndale where voters overwhelmingly favor medical marijuana.
“There is strong support for medical marijuana in the community here and on the City Council,” Bruner said.