The City of Hillsdale passed two ordinances that will prohibit the public consumption and establishment of stores that sell marijuana at Monday’s city council meeting. The ordinance is part of an “opt-out” procedure of a new state law, allow municipalities to prohibit the legalization of recreational marijuana within its jurisdiction.
Recreational marijuana becomes legal in Michigan on Dec. 6, after a bill was passed in early November. The bill included an “opt-out” option, which allows communities to decline to participate in the new state law. The Hillsdale City Council passed both ordinances at its Dec. 3 meeting in an unanimous vote.
“I think, considering Hillsdale voted against the legalization of recreational marijuana, that it is totally appropriate to discourage dispensaries from opening in town,” Mayor Adam Stockford said in an email. “We don’t have gentlemen’s clubs or casinos in town either and most of us are fine with that.”
The first ordinance prohibits the sale and use of marijuana in a public place. Breaking the ordinance is punishable by a $500 fine. The second ordinance prohibits the establishment of dispensaries within city limits.
“The election results in Hillsdale saw not just Hillsdale County but the City of Hillsdale as one of the very few places in the state that voted against recreational marijuana, so I feel pretty comfortable saying that the democratic will of the residents of Hillsdale is that the majority don’t want marijuana businesses here,” Stockford said during the city council meeting.
Stockford also drew similarities between marijuana dispensaries and establishments like casinos or men’s clubs, saying that not everything should be allowed simply because they bring in revenue.
“It doesn’t mean we want to change the flavor of our town for every little dollar that’s out there,” Stockford said during the meeting.
Other members of the council agreed.
“There’s no positive affect to this. It destroys our younger people,” said Councilman Greg Stuchell. “It’s a vice we don’t need.”
The meeting also provided an opportunity for city residents to speak publicly about allowing the recreational use of marijuana, with some speaking in favor of the state law.
One resident proposed banning public consumption, but allowing a limited number of dispensaries within the city.
“Like it or not, it’s here to stay,” she said.
Laurie Brandes, the coordinator for the Hillsdale County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition, spoke out against allowing recreational marijuana. A study of frequency of marijuana among Hillsdale County 11th graders showed a 55 percent increase in what Brandes called “frequent” use, according to Brandes.
“We appreciate the council considering this ordinance to opt out of marijuana business in the city of HIllsdale,” Brandes said. “One of the premises of prevention is to limit supply and we believe not having storefronts in the city of Hillsdale would help limit that issue.”
The ordinances will go into effect on Dec. 18, according to Katy Price, the interim city clerk.
“It isn’t about limiting freedoms or the marketplace, it’s about maintaining as much independence and local control over our city as possible,” Stockford said in an email. “That’s part of what makes Hillsdale special. We don’t need to be Ann Arbor to be a place of learning and culture or of recreational opportunities. We love what we are.”