an I voted sticker in a pile of leave to show getting a municipality to opt-in to adult-use marijuana

Getting a Municipality to Opt-In to Adult-Use Marijuana

Having a recreational cannabis business in Michigan is still a rarity. Only about 45 of Michigan’s municipalities have opted in for adult-use marijuana businesses. This is despite 55.9 percent of Michiganders voting for Proposition 1 which legalized cannabis for all adults. Getting a municipality to opt-in to adult-use marijuana is a challenge.

The ballot initiative (Proposal 1) that allowed legal sales of adult-use marijuana in Michigan gave an incredible amount of power to local jurisdictions. The decision-makers on where a marijuana establishment can open its doors are not the bureaucrats in Lansing or consultants in the cannabis field but ordinary citizens, who are holding elected positions in cities, villages and townships.

If you’re in a municipality that had a soft opt-out—that is a majority of the commission members are taking a wait and see attitude—the opportunity is available for you to bring sample ordinances to them. Many of the State’s smaller townships and villages don’t have the bandwidth or will to adopt an ordinance. It’s just easier to do nothing.

We recommend looking closely at adopted ordinances and finding one to share with your local elected officials. This will be a process that takes several months or longer to accomplish, but creating a coalition of other citizens is important. It doesn’t take everyone, but a dozen or so people who are willing to write and speak up at meetings can have a major impact.

If you’re in a municipality that has strongly opted out, now is the time to organize a drive to make a change.

If a cannabis company or business owner wants a local jurisdiction to opt into a recreational marijuana ordinance it’s fairly simple and it begins with counting the votes.

Local municipalities must hold a vote by elected representation showing their intent to the State they will allow cannabis companies to locate in their boundaries. This has created hundreds of different rules and guidelines for cannabis companies to follow and little to no uniformity in each process.

It’s only a matter of time before large corporations see what most political insiders already do, funding local campaigns for a very small amount of money will dictate which decision-makers are elected.

You can have an impact in a community without a great deal of investment. In a seven-person township board, a decision on whether to open a multimillion-dollar facility and provide hundreds of jobs to the local community might be decided by a person who spent $500 on their last election cycle. The amount of money that will eventually flow to local elections will be real and it will be staggering, but if you act now you can make change without excessive cost.

Here’s one truth about locally elected officials.

Most township elected officials file a waiver stating they plan on spending less than $1000 on their next election cycle. In a rural township, you can easily flip a board (four new members on a seven-person board) for around $10,000. It begins by hiring a reputable capable campaign consultant and building your preferred candidate’s name ID through mailers and digital advertisements. You can ensure victory especially when a vast majority of township elections are decided in a low voter turnout primary.

You will need to set up a state Political Action Committee (PAC) and get 25 small donors to donate $5, give three small contributions of $25 each and wait six months. The PAC then matures allowing you to donate up to $10,000 to a candidate. Running your candidates as a slate saves money on mailers and allows your pro-cannabis candidates to work together.

Cities are a slightly different animal in that most city charters are set up to give very little real power to the city commission other than appointing a city manager. When electing a slate in a city it’s important you have a slate that understands they will let the city manager know the direction of the city, not the other way around. This is more difficult than it may seem. There has been reluctance from many city managers and corporate counsel offices throughout the state to opt-in even with a vast majority of commission members being in favor.

Larger jurisdictions will be difficult as other industries are competing for candidate’s time with contributions and large endorsements, however, smaller municipalities are often ignored by the larger state funders and they yield incredible power in the cannabis industry. So, the concept of location as a primary driver of cannabis traffic comes into play. Can you accomplish your goal just outside the City limits? Probably.

Because these processes take many months to accomplish, now is the perfect time to start creating a plan for making change. If you need help with getting a municipality to opt-in to adult-use marijuana, give us a call and we’ll connect you with the right resources and people.