By Charles Sercombe
Hamtramck’s ban on allowing recreational marijuana sales has taken another turn.
A voter-driven petition to have the city council reconsider its all-out ban on cannabis sales outlets prompted the council to abandon its ban, passed just a few weeks ago.
Those councilmembers in favor of continuing a modified ban on marijuana sales include Fadel Al-Marsoumi, Mohammed Hassan, Nayeem Choudhury, Mohammed Alsomiri and Saad Almasmari.
The sixth councilmember, Ian Perrotta, is in favor of allowing sales. Mayor Karen Majewski is also in favor.
Had the council voted to continue its original ban, that would have triggered the new ordinance to be suspended until city voters decided the issue.
The earliest the next election could have happened is this coming May, which could have also opened the door to allow more dispensaries to start up the meantime.
The city currently has two outlets, one on Holbrook and another on Caniff.
There could be a third in the works at the former Three Star Bar-B-Q on Jos. Campau and Commor. There are rumors of several others also waiting to take advantage of this pause on a ban.
The new ordinance under consideration would allow any existing outlet to operate at the time the ordinance goes into effect. But it would ban any others from opening going forward.
The proposed ordinance would also not allow the existing dispensaries to transfer their business license to new owners.
The ordinance is similar – if not almost exact — to one that former Councilmember Andrea Karpinski recently proposed, but which was shot down by a bare majority of councilmembers – excluding Karpinski and Councilmember Ian Perrotta.
Karpinski quit during that meeting, and recently remarked on social media on the about-face from the same councilmembers who had rejected her proposal.
“What a novel idea. Someone should have done this earlier. … Oh wait, I did!” she said, on a Facebook page called “I Love Hamtramck and Actually Live Here.”
It could take about a month before the ordinance’s adoption process is completed, and it goes into effect.
Hamtramck’s handling of allowing marijuana sales has been messy at best. All cities were given an option to opt in or opt out of allowing sales of medical or recreational marijuana.
City council did neither, although there is plenty of finger-pointing over who’s fault that is.
Regardless, state law allows marijuana dispensaries to open in communities that don’t opt out.
It wasn’t until several weeks ago that one did just that – to the surprise and shock to many in the community.
There was an immediate backlash.
Members of the Bengali and Yemeni communities were outraged that the store opened, and demanded the council to take action and ban any more from coming in.
However, there were a number of residents who wanted the retail outlets.
The issue grew into a cultural divide between conservative Muslim members of the community and younger white people.
Those opposed have argued what many other people have said in opposition throughout the state: allowing marijuana sales would attract increased crime, and allow minors to get their hands on the products.
Those in favor say those fears are overblown and debunked, and that the city needs the added tax revenue the shops produce. It is estimated that the state will collect hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes and fees from the cannabis industry.
Communities that allow sales will also enjoy a generous portion on the sharing of fees.
So far, there are about 1,300 communities in Michigan that have opted out of sales, even if their voters were in favor of legalizing marijuana.
Over 80 communities in the state have allowed sales.
Linda Ward, who organized a petition to have the city’s initial marijuana ban reconsidered and put up to a vote by the community, told The Review that the reason she did is because she thought the council was too hasty in its decision, and that the ordinance would cause a lawsuit.
Ward owns a house here, and said “I don’t want to see my taxes go up.”
She is 39 years old, and said she does not use marijuana. Had the city opted out in proper fashion, she said, “I would not have fought back.”
Asked if she planned to restart another petition when the newly proposed one is adopted, she said she had no comment.
(Editor’s note: in the print version of this story, Linda Ward was incorrectly identified as Linda Wood. We apologize to Ward for the error and any inconvenience it may have caused.)
Posted Jan. 29, 2021