An explanation of Ludington’s marijuana opt out ordinance.

December 11, 2018

Ludington Mayor-Elect Steve Miller

An explanation of Ludington’s marijuana opt out ordinance.

By Steve Miller, mayor elect.

The issue to allow/not allow marijuana dispensaries to operate with the city limits was discussed at a Nov. 19, 2018 City Council Public Safety/Public Utilities Committee meeting. The first reading of a proposed city ordinance to “opt out” of allowing the recreational sale of pot within the city limits was presented to the full Council on Monday, December 10.

Regardless of how the Council ultimately acts upon that ordinance, I think it’s imperative to have greater understanding of the actions and ramifications of the issue.

As I’ve stated before, this issue is not my agenda; never has been. But, I feel it’s my responsibility to answer the inquiries and statements put to me since the election and the time to speak is now.

The legal language used to write Proposal 1 on the November 6 ballot was not written by any legislator. It was placed on the ballot by a citizens’ initiative, written by pro-marijuana advocates.

How is that done?  In order to exercise the right to initiate state of Michigan legislation, a citizen or group must secure, on petitions, the signatures of a minimum of 8% of registered electors, of the total vote cast for all candidates for governor in the last gubernatorial election (2014).

The key phrase here is “initiate legislation”. The citizens of the state made their mandate clear at the ballot box.  Now, the state House and Senate begin their process of passing the legislation regulating the sales, taxation, and enforcement of the new law.  Note: While the vote for legalization of recreational marijuana was a statewide initiative, it cannot be definitively argued that the same result should be considered similarly binding in Ludington, or any municipality, regardless of how the vote went within their jurisdiction,

The reservation held by municipalities, including ours, is the wording of the initiative and the timing allowed for local discussion, legislation, and enactment. The state has until December 6, 2019, a full year from the date of Board of Canvasser’s final approval of the vote, to sign in to law their regulations and begin accepting applications for retail stores.

Once the state passes legislation, within that year’s deadline, should municipalities have not chosen to “opt out” beforehand, a legal claim can be made that the inaction be considered an approval by the municipality. Note: Once, after choosing to opt out, a municipality can choose to opt back in at a later date.

So, the city, like many others in the state, is opting out proactively, so as not be handcuffed by the pace of activity by the state. It’s conceivable that some municipalities will have made their decision before the state puts forth their regulations.  However, as it is written now, municipalities have the right to assign additional legislation of their own, after the state institutes theirs.

As of today, for Ludington, it’s the prudent thing to do, time wise. This proposed action of the Council is not a final decision, as it is an issue that will not go away. It does however, need to be debated and digested by all sides before Council provides a final opinion.

Bottom line:  There’s plenty to be discussed before any final action is taken by the Council.

Three more things—

  1. I have a group of impartial volunteers ready to canvass a minimum of 300 residents, over the age of 21, in each of the six Wards for citizen input on the issue of allowing/not allowing marijuana dispensaries within the city limits with the intent of producing an empirical data base that will collect specific yes or no responses, providing sufficient citizen feedback to factor into any decision made.  
  2. Fact: If the City Council ever makes the decision to opt out permanently, a citizen’s initiative would require 605 verified signatures of registered city voters to put the issue on a ballot for the city’s residents to vote on the matter.  Following the City Code correctly, that vote, in the majority, would then be required to become law. See City Charter Section 7.5 (c) [1]
  3. Fact: Should a dispensary, or dispensaries, be allowed to operate within the city limits, the amount of tax dollars dispensed to Ludington will be negligible; given that the number of dispensaries statewide will share EQUALLY any of the designated city/municipality tax dollars.  Example: If Ludington has one dispensary and Grand Rapids has 50, GR will receive 50 times the amount of tax dollars Ludington would. Now, extrapolate that throughout the state, and Ludington’s share literally becomes microscopic.

Should, at some time, the city approve the sale of recreational marijuana, for this issue and any others, I hope that everyone would appreciate the process  to fully vet as much information as possible and allow the free flow of personal input from all interested parties, regardless of their position.

I hope this helps answer some of the questions and clarifies some misconceptions that are floating around.  

If you have any other questions, just let me know and I’ll try my best to answer them.

Feel free to call to meet or discuss.  


Steve Miller


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