Keego Harbor Revisits Marijuana Ballot Initiatives

October 10th, 2023 Legislation & Policy Updates
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In a consequential decision for Keego Harbor, Michigan, residents are once again poised to shape the marijuana landscape within the city limits. This represents the second call in a year for Keego Harbor's electorate to voice their stance on the contentious issue.

A Glimpse Back in Time

Back in 2008, Michigan as a state gave the green light to medical marijuana, and by 2018, recreational use had joined the ranks of legality. Despite statewide sanctioning, the discretion still lies with local municipalities to either embrace or shun commercial marijuana activities.

Currently, Keego Harbor holds an 'opt-out' status, meaning sales of both medical and recreational marijuana are not allowed. This stance was put to test last year when a ballot initiative seemed set to redefine the city's marijuana framework.

This proposal from the group named 'Oakland Cares' sought to discontinue Keego's ban on medical marijuana establishments. Moreover, it called for the establishment of a city department dedicated solely to the medical marijuana domain, aiming to fine-tune local facility regulations.

While the initiative was backed by a majority (637 voting in favor against 527 opposed), a subsequent judicial decision by the Oakland County Circuit Court rendered it null and void.

In shedding light on this, Anthony Chubb, an attorney affiliated with Giarmarco, Mullins & Horton P.C., mentioned that the changes proposed exceeded the limits of a mere charter amendment and necessitated a charter revision, as per Michigan law. This view was validated by the Circuit Court.

Keego's Leadership Weighs In

Mayor Rob Kalman expressed concerns about the past proposal, noting the procedural lapses that led to its rejection. "They failed to adhere to the right process for a charter revision," Kalman emphasized.

Fast forward to today, and Keego still remains in the 'opt-out' zone. However, the forthcoming general election on November 7th might herald change. The City Council has greenlit a proposed amendment for the ballot. If it gains traction, the city would permit a single marijuana retailer by ordinance, while keeping all other marijuana-based enterprises at bay.

However, there's a twist. Another group, named by Chubb as the "Open Stores in Keego Harbor Committee", has floated an ordinance and charter amendment for the same ballot. Kalman expressed reservations, "For a city as petite as Keego, with a population just touching a few thousand, is there really a need for two marijuana stores?"

Given the proclivity of Keego residents to support marijuana businesses, the City Council is striving to retain some reins over the decision-making process. Kalman reaffirmed his faith in local control, stating that while they're open to marijuana sales, they're not in favor of grow operations.

A Tale of Two Proposals

The first proposal, supported by Keego, is succinctly titled, "City Charter Proposed Amendment to Allow a Marihuana Retailer by Ordinance & Prohibit Establishments". It clearly outlines the intention to permit a single retailer and prevent other marijuana endeavors.

The alternative, coming from an "outside group" as Kalman phrases it, would replace Keego's current status, paving the way for two retail cannabis establishments.

The pro-marijuana faction, represented by the Open Stores in Keego Harbor Committee, underscores the financial boons from marijuana sales. According to their website, "", Keego Harbor is missing out on substantial state excise tax revenue from retail cannabis sales, a figure that touched nearly $52,000 per store in 2023.

A Dissenting Voice

Not everyone is on board with the marijuana movement. Michael Karson, the only City Council member to vote against placing a city charter proposal on the ballot, feels that marijuana dispensaries don't align with Keego's vision, especially given its educational institutions.

The Road Ahead

If both amendments – one endorsing a solitary retailer and the other advocating for two – find favor with voters, the one accruing more votes would take precedence, says Chubb.

Mayor Kalman encapsulated his message for the electorate by emphasizing the importance of 'off-year' elections. He hopes that residents take an informed stance and vote wisely.

In Conclusion

Keego Harbor, at the crossroads of a pivotal decision, represents a microcosm of the broader debate on marijuana commercialization. While the financial perks are undeniable, the concerns about societal impact and local ethos are equally valid. The upcoming election will provide a keen insight into which way the wind blows in this Michigan city.

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