Berkley holds off on allowing marijuana businesses, wants more information


Since voters statewide approved recreational marijuana, Berkley and other cities have been getting calls from entrepreneurs who want to set up businesses to sell pot in the community.

But the city is holding off until it gets a better sense of how the new law will work. The City Council has delayed a second reading of a measure to allow marijuana businesses.

“The city wants a chance to look at zoning and other conditions to determine if there is a proper place for (pot businesses) if we do allow them,” said City Manager Matt Baumgarten. “We want to make sure we get some answers to some of the questions we have.”

Under the new state law, businesses will include marijuana transporters, testers, sellers, growers and others.

But rules on how those businesses will be regulated and licensed by the state aren’t expected to be finalized until early 2020, Baumgarten said.

Statewide, about 56 percent of voters approved of recreational marijuana in last month’s election. In Berkley, about 70 percent of voters supported the new law.

Berkley’s City Attorney John Staran said time is needed to determine what is in the best interest of the city.

The medical marijuana law that passed about a decade ago left it up to individual communities whether they wanted to opt in and allow dispensaries. The recreational pot law assumes all cities will allow marijuana facilities unless they opt out with a formal resolution.

Last month, the City Commission in Royal Oak voted 4-3 to opt out in order to give officials there time to determine what kind of zoning, planning and ordinance requirements the city might need to implement if it ultimately allows recreational marijuana business.

Berkley and Royal Oak years ago decided not to allow medical marijuana dispensaries. However, officials in both cities have said that doesn’t mean they won’t allow recreational marijuana facilities under the new law.

Nearby Ferndale, which allowed medical marijuana dispensaries, has not opted out of the new law, but is taking more time before it approves recreational pot businesses.

“ We had a presentation from our city attorney last (month) about the new law and our options,” said Ferndale Mayor David Coulter. “But City Council has asked staff and the Planning Commission to review and weigh in and make recommendations no later than May 1.”

Berkley Mayor Dan Terbrack said in a statement the city still has a couple of years before the state finalizes how recreational marijuana business will be regulated.

“Part of our role is to make sure we’re acting in the best interest of the city,” he said. “If we had a very clear set of standards on how to regulate these establishments … we could have a much more robust conversation.”

Baumgarten said he expects Berkley city officials will get answers to their questions and start to develop rules for marijuana businesses by spring 2019.

While cities research issues they want addressed, recreational use of marijuana for those 21 and older in Michigan is scheduled to become legal Thursday, which marks the 10th day since the state Board of Canvassers certified the Nov. 6 election results.