NORTHPORT — The Northport Village Council is moving ahead with creating zoning regulations for marijuana-related businesses in the village.
That’s despite a petition signed by 66 residents who are asking for a ban on all medical and recreational marijuana establishments in the village.
The petition has been deemed invalid by village attorney Ross Hammersley, who said it violates two state laws.
“The council doesn’t really have any feeling that they want to renege on their previous vote,” said village Pres. Steve Wetherbee.
“The council doesn’t have a desire to overturn what they’ve already done.”
Last month the council approved Northport Ordinance No. 124 and No. 125, which allow for both medical and recreational cannabis dispensaries in the village.
Trustees Hugh Cook, Jane Gale and Tom Gremel at Thursday’s regular council meeting were unanimously appointed to a committee to work with the Northport Planning Commission on the details of those ordinances, such as annual fees and an application fee that would be in addition to the state application fee of $6,000.
They’ll also work on language that will be added to the Northport Zoning Ordinance and will regulate things such as size, setbacks and hours of operation for the businesses, which will be allowed in the D1 District on the north end of the village.
The district allows for a mix of residential and non-residential uses.
The petition offers up what is being called the “Village of Northport Prohibition of Marihuana Establishments Ordinance.”
It was submitted by Leelanau Township resident and attorney Tom Oehmke and asks the council to repeal two ordinances approved Oct. 17 allowing both medical and recreational establishments.
If the village does not repeal the ordinances, Oehmke has said a lawsuit will be filed in 13th Circuit Court seeking an emergency order to have the ordinance placed on the ballot for the next regular election.
Hammersley, who is with the Traverse City-based Olson, Bzdok & Howard, said the petition and proposed ordinance violate state law in two ways.
The petition violates Michigan Election Law because it does not indicate whether those who collected signatures were paid or were voluntary, Hammersley said. As a result, the signatures are all invalid, he said.
Oehmke argues that Attorney General Dana Nessel wrote an opinion that the law requiring that information — passed by Republicans in the 2018 lame duck session — is unconstitutional.
“But the village can’t disregard the law based solely on an attorney general’s opinion,” Hammersley said.
Oehmke on Friday said he has added the needed checkbox to the petition form and is waiting for Hammersley to approve it.
“We will recirculate the petition and gather the required number of signatures,” Oehmke said.
Signatures must number greater than 5 percent of those who voted in the last gubernatorial election. That number is 20, Oehmke said.
“We will have many more than that,” he said.
The ordinance itself, which seeks to ban all marijuana establishments, signs related to an establishment, and marijuana accessories, violates the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act (MRTMA), Hammersley said.
The MRTMA, he said, allows for ballot initiatives that seek to ban recreational establishments, but medical uses of the drug are protected under the act.
“The law strictly prohibits ballot initiatives from affecting medical marijuana,” Hammersley said.
Oehmke said he will also remove any language regarding medical marijuana from the ordinance.
Trustee Mike Stoffel said he doesn’t want the village to face a lawsuit at some point.
“I want to make sure that we’re really careful in how we proceed,” Stoffel said.
State voters in November 2018 approved the MRTMA in Proposal 1, the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act, which legalized cannabis.
Northport is the only Leelanau County municipality that allows cannabis businesses.
Wetherbee said putting the issue to voters is the fairest way to determine whether they want marijuana dispensaries in their community. He said that while voters “decriminalized” marijuana last November, it doesn’t mean they want a dispensary in the village.