Marquette Township closer to prohibiting weed sales

MARQUETTE — Marquette Township appears to be joining the growing ranks of Michigan municipalities that have prohibited recreational marijuana establishments since the passage of Proposal 1 on Nov. 6.

On Tuesday, the Marquette Township Board approved the first reading of an ordinance which “prohibits all marijuana establishments” as defined by the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act.

Township Attorney Roger Zappa said many municipalities are banning marijuana establishments until state lawmakers devise regulations for licensing the establishments.

The township’s ordinance language characterizes a violation as a municipal civil infraction with fines not less than $100 and not more than $500.

Each day that the violation continues “shall be deemed a separate offense,” the proposed ordinance states.

“Virtually all of the townships, and cities and villages … who have addressed this issue across the state so far are taking the stance of, ‘Well, we’ll just hold tight and not permit them for the time being, until we see what those regulations are looking like,’ because, if the state doesn’t adopt the regulations on time, then the municipality is going to have to do that, and that could be kind of a daunting task,” Zappa said.

The act gives the state until December, a year after the law initially went into effect, Zappa said, to begin accepting applications for state-issued licenses.

At that time, according to the state law, any marijuana license application that is received by the state will be forwarded to the city, village or township where the applicant wishes to be located. Under the law, the state can grant the license if “the municipality in which the proposed marihuana establishment will be located does not notify the department that the proposed marihuana establishment is not in compliance with an ordinance consistent with section 6 of this act and in effect at the time of application.”

The list of municipalities that have enacted ordinances prohibiting marijuana establishments is at 209 and growing, according to an unofficial list on the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs website. The list does not include municipalities like Marquette Township or the city of Negaunee that have not completed the municipal process of adopting an ordinance.

Zappa said that enacting an ordinance to prohibit marijuana businesses does not have to be a permanent decision, but he advised against making any changes to the ordinance until the state rules and processes for licensing are in place.

“Even if the board were to want to allow facilities, you probably should not do that before the state adopts its regulations because you don’t know what those regulations are going to be,” Zappa said.

The ordinance, if adopted, would supersede any previous action the township has taken regarding the issue, including a medical marijuana moratorium resolution adopted by the board on Feb. 16, 2016, Zappa said.

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.