Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Westland set to OK new marijuana ordinance

Julie Brown
Staff Writer

Following 10 study sessions, members of the Westland City Council on Oct. 7 introduced an ordinance amendment allowing recreational marijuana businesses in the city. The measure is expected to be on the agenda for a vote at the 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 21, city council meeting at Westland City Hall.
Mohamed Ayoub, city department of planning director, said that details of the discussion at the previous study sessions, maps and more information about the proposed ordinance   are available on the city website for public review. City leaders face a Nov. 1 deadline to act on the measure, which follows November 2018 statewide approval of recreational marijuana use in Michigan.

“There has been no interest in the mall,” said Ayoub of Westland Shopping Center. It is within the City Centre which under the introduced ordinance will not have marijuana businesses.
Westland Police Chief Jeff Jedrusik said there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the sale of both medicinal and recreational marijuana.
“I think it's just so new they're (city leaders) just waiting to see how it goes.”
The Oct. 7 meeting included a suggestion from Councilman Bill Johnson that businesses be limited to four in industrial areas. Councilman Jim Hart noted, “I haven't heard a lot of positives from people,” citing either indifference or “not in my backyard.”
Hart added at the meeting the upcoming city council election will change that body's makeup, suggesting a wait and “more time.”
Jedrusik explained that the issue now is recreational or medical dispensaries, which some communities including Canton and Livonia have opted to prohibit,
Ayoub said there is a lot of industry interest in Westland, “Yes, too much interest.” Residents have objected to facilities, including zoning concerns. Ayoub said he receives emails, phone calls and voicemails daily from cannabis industry people.
Jedrusik noted that Westland, the state's 10th largest city, favored recreational marijuana by two-thirds in the November 2018 vote. “That goes to show there's interest or demand for the product,” the police chief said.
He noted that pharmacies are often the targets of robberies and break-ins from criminals seeking  prescription drugs and that party stores are also vulnerable to crime. It's illegal to smoke marijuana openly in places like parks, said Jedrusik.
Residents on Oct. 7 noted concerns about the proximity of any marijuana businesses to schools or homes.
“This could potentially take the grow operations out of the neighborhoods,” Jedrusik said.
He added that credit unions now handle some financial transactions for the cannabis industry.  He added that officers now see many drivers in Westland under the influence of marijuana, equally as many as drunken drivers in his city.
The proposed ordinance follows discussions with business people and residents which Mayor William R. Wild calls a “strategic measured approach. We're not expecting we'll have to change the ways we patrol,” said Wild after the Oct. 7 meeting.
“We've been trying to be as transparent as we can,” Wild said, noting the Oct. 7 meeting continued for four hours.
Ayoub explained in an interview the proposed eight recreational licenses would include: two retail/provisioning; one for a secure transporter (vehicles and an office at the site for transporting goods); one safety compliance facility to include testing for THC and foreign objects; one microbusiness for growing, processing, and selling on a small scale; and three collocated facilities.
The collocated facilities and microbusiness would be in industrial areas.
The two retail and safety compliance licenses, said Ayoub, could be in a retail plaza. He said Wild wants to protect the City Centre “because of the unknowns and to keep it more of a retail district.”
The Westland study sessions have drawn dozens of hopefuls “looking to establish some type of business related to marijuana,” said Ayoub. He cited the City of Pontiac citizen initiative to allow such businesses, adding, “We're trying not to get in that situation.”
On Oct. 21 the Westland City Council could opt out, approve or amend the ordinance.
Currently, there are 26 licensed medical marijuana dispensaries in Detroit, three in River Rouge, one in Inkster and two in the City of Wayne.