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Cities in metro Detroit face tough marijuana decision

Berkley to decide whether to allow pot shops
Posted: 6:31 AM, Feb 19, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-19 15:38:12Z

BERKLEY, Mich. (WXYZ) — In November, Michigan voters chose to allow recreational marijuana, and now cities are scrambling to figure out where they fit in the picture.

Cities like Royal Oak have already made moves to ban marijuana businesses from opening within city limits, but others are asking the question: Did voters approve the proposal to allow them to smoke, or because they want actual brick and mortar pot stores in their community?

“We don’t have the luxury of long-term planning,” said Berkley City Manager Matt Baumgarten. “We need our decisions made locally prior to the state issuing licenses.”

What’s different about Michigan’s recreational marijuana laws is that all cities were automatically opted-in to allow businesses to open within their cities – if they don’t want pot shops within city limits they have to pass an ordinance. In Berkley, the city council members openly questioned as recently as November how they measure the intent of voters — the proposal passed with 70-percent of the city voting to approve recreational marijuana, but they question whether the goal was to smoke, or to create business.

Nothing a city does would change the legality of marijuana in Michigan, but it would change whether licensed businesses are able to move into the city.

That’s why Berkley is hosting a Tuesday night meeting at the Berkley Community Center. The goal? To get their citizens' view on what they should, or shouldn’t, allow in Berkley.

“We kind of go to our default, when in doubt go to the residents,” said Baumgarten. “We don’t want to shut anyone out — we’ll come in wide open, no preconceived notions. It really is, tell us what you think about this.”

Beyond the meeting, Berkley has sent out this survey asking residents to let them know what they think should happen. To date, the city has gotten roughly 1,000 responses.

“I think Berkley is a pretty progressive city,” said Larry Zimberg, who lives nearby. “It’s pretty much what the people want.”

Rick Krueger said he thinks allowing recreational marijuana to be sold in Berkley would keep kids from getting into harder, more illicit drugs.

“I think that’s important,” said Krueger. “Our kids, we’re losing them too quickly.”

Tuesday’s meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. — Baumgarten said they’ll have a quick presentation at the beginning, but it’s open for the public to sound off.