By Charles Sercombe
The chances of Hamtramck allowing medical marijuana dispensaries looks pretty iffy at this point.
According to sources, a majority of city councilmembers may back off from adopting a set of ordinances that would regulate dispensaries and grow facilities.
That’s because of the massive turnout at a town hall meeting held Tuesday night at the public library. About 120 people showed and most objected to allowing such facilities to locate here.
Most of those in attendance were from the Yemeni and Bengali communities.
Many said they were against allowing the sale of medical marijuana because they feared it would get into the hands of children and that the facilities would invite crime.
The first hour of the town hall meeting was taken up by speakers arranged by the city administration.
Former Michigan Democratic gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed gave an impassioned speech on why allowing dispensaries to open will benefit the city.
He said that like it or not, medical marijuana will be sold in the state, and now is the time for cities to adopt their own regulations. Otherwise, he said, the “wave” of medical marijuana will wash over the city.
“It’s about regulating,” El-Sayed said.
City Attorney Harry Kalogerakas echoed that sentiment for the need to adopt regulations.
“If we don’t do it ourselves, we run the threat of someone coming in and creating something unacceptable to the community,” he said.
If the administration was hoping to dispel fears and clear up misinformation, it didn’t seem to make an impression on those attending.
Instead, after listening to the city’s speakers, the crowd grew impatient. At one point several people yelled out for an end to the speakers so they could speak.
Those attending also objected to being limited to commenting no longer than three minutes.
During all of it Mayor Karen Majewski, who has advocated for allowing dispensaries, looked defeated.
One of only a couple of people who spoke in favor of dispensaries was Councilmember Ian Perrotta. He rattled a number of those attending by saying fellow Councilmember Saad Almasmari was “lying” when he said earlier that the ordinances under consideration would allow an unlimited number of dispensaries to open.
Almasmari said the ordinances would allow medical marijuana to swamp the city.
“Are we planning on making Hamtramck a green city?” he said.
While there is no limit mentioned in the proposed ordinances, the zoning regulations would severely restrict where they could operate.
Nayeem Choudhury disputed one of the key arguments in favor of the dispensaries. Backers of the ordinances said the businesses would bring in needed tax revenue.
Choudhury said that the businesses would not bring in a significant amount of money.
Instead, he said, the businesses would act as a bad influence on children walking past dispensaries.
Another speaker said allowing dispensaries would “destroy” the community.
Former school boardmember Nasr Saleh Hussain said the city’s pursuit of drafting the ordinances was a “waste of money.”
He said the city should wait and see what happens in other cities that allow dispensaries.
“Don’t make Hamtramck a testing ground,” Hussain said.
City officials have been grappling with the issue of dispensaries ever since voters approved the use of medical marijuana 10 years ago. It wasn’t until recently that city officials pushed the issue to the forefront.
Until Tuesday’s meeting Councilmembers Perrotta, Anam Miah and Andrea Karpinski appeared to be in favor of dispensaries. It was expected that Mayor Majewski would break the council’s tie vote.
Now, according to sources, the mayor wants to shelve the issue.
Majewski could not be reached for comment.
Councilmember Miah said he expected more people in favor of dispensaries to come out.
“I was surprised by that,” he said.
Nov. 2, 2018