When Michigan voters approved a controversial referendum regarding the use of recreational marijuana in November, they also put local units of government across the state to take a hard look on regulating it. And the discussions on how to regulate doesn’t only impact the more populous municipalities across the state. The smaller communities, too, have it on their agendas for open dialogue.

The Stephenson City Council is the latest in the Upper Peninsula to give the use of recreational marijuana prompt attention. The council began discussing the possibility of creating a local ordinance to regulate its use within the city limits.

Council members used the committee-of-the-whole format to tackle the topic. In our opinion, this was the proper forum to use because it gives council members an avenue in which to openly express their viewpoints without taking official action. And out of this initial meeting came the conclusion that more research is necessary before an ordinance of some kind can be put to a floor vote.

The city currently has an ordinance on the books regarding the use of medical marijuana. The recreational marijuana issue is a different story. The medical marijuana ordinance cannot be applied when it comes to the use of recreational marijuana.

“If we don’t want provisional centers, growers and growers’ licenses within the city limits, then we would need an ordinance, not a resolution, opting out of it,” commented Alderman John Starzynski. Alderwoman Amy Larson suggested a zoning regulation might be a possibility to regulate the growth and sale of recreational marijuana within the city limits.

Larson also pointed out an important fact that many residents haven’t considered or discussed. “Anybody can grow it right now, you need a license to sell it, but the licenses won’t be available for another two years,” she said.

“Personally, I think we should opt out of it for now,” chipped in Starzynski, preferring to see a written ordinance in place first. He noted people can still grow marijuana in their own private garden in town, but people can’t come into the city and begin selling it.

According to the councilman, provisional centers are places where the sale of recreational marijuana is legal and the council may want to consider this route down the road. For the time being, however, Starzynski made it clear he is recommending the city opt out on the thorny issue.

The council also looked at what other communities in Michigan are doing to handle the matter. Many cities have chosen to opt out because the potential of the federal government stepping into the picture and slapping on federal regulations.

According to Starzynski, if Stephenson permitted dispensaries to open up in the city, the federal government could cut off local funding because recreational marijuana is considered a federal crime.

Mayor Connie Westrich said she will continue to research the steps taken by other municipalities in Michigan and bring those findings back to the city council.

We believe the Stephenson City Council is moving in the right direction by holding off on any proposed ordinance until more information is collected. Seeking legal advice should also be considered.

The use of recreational marijuana is an issue that is going to be on government agendas across Michigan for some time.