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Marijuana policy on the ballot in three Michigan communities

Virginia Department of Elections

Citizens of Pontiac, Caro and Algonac will all make decisions on local cannabis policy on election day. Marijuana was legalized statewide in 2018, however cities have autonomy in determining laws and regulations for cannabis.

Medicinal Marijuana has been legal in Pontiac since 2018. Voters there will decide on a set of rules for allowing adult-recreational cannabis. In April, the Pontiac City Council agreed on a regulatory framework for recreational cannabis. A ballot proposal petition collected enough signatures to stop the ordinance's progress.

After the city council negotiated with the petition organizers, the proposal was withdrawn. In October the city council put out a new set of rules for recreational cannabis, with a greater focus on social equity and tighter background checks. A different ballot proposal petition placed the new set of rules on the ballot.

If the “yes” vote wins on the ballot proposal, the new set of rules will be enacted. If the “no” vote wins the old rules are enacted.

Michael McGuinness is the Pontiac City Council President. He says there are differences between the old and new proposals. “What we regulated in the spring, sets up various districts or areas in the city where the businesses can be located.” he said, “It also sets up the scoring for how those would be awarded, as well as the clarification and requirements about the application process and the operations. Those fundamental systems stay the same no matter the outcome.”

“The changes this Fall that we made, that are now up for decision by the voters, spells out what would be eligible for social equity retailers as we defined it,” McGuinness said. “It would clarify the point scoring and shift slightly how many points are given for various qualities or indicators that we were hoping to ensure a stronger field for this emerging industry.”

McGuinness said that Pontiac wants the point-scoring process for awarding licenses to be ‘Open, fair, but competitive and have a positive outcome for Pontiac residents and taxpayers.” He also said the new background check proposal was higher than state requirements, but still “realistic.”

Ultimately, McGuinness said he expects the recreational cannabis rules to still be stuck in litigation after the vote.

In Caro, residents will vote on a citizens initiated ballot proposal expanding marijuna licenses. “They are proposing to increase the amount of class C grow licenses, which is for 2000 plants, from the current amount of two to a number of 30. To increase the amount of processing licenses we have available in our ordinance from 2 to 8, and to have two excess grow licenses which will allow someone to have more than five stacked class C licenses. We currently offer none,” said Scott Czasak, Caro City Manager.

In Algonac, citizens will vote on allowing marijuana in their city, with a dispensary that provides recreational and medicinal marijuana.

A.J. Jones is a newsroom intern and graduate of the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Sources say he owns a dog named Taffy.
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