Most of the horror has been expressed by members of the Muslim community, but their concerns will be familiar to residents of any community that has discussed how to deal with marijuana deals. In particular, they cited concerns that crime would increase and children may have easier access to the drug.
“Ultimately, we know who the majority of the city is – it’s Yemenis and Bengal,” City Councilor Fadel Al-Marsoumi said during a meeting lasting more than five hours devoted largely to the marijuana debate in December. “They don’t want it here. We have to respect them.”
However, the vast majority of white residents who spoke at the meeting were in favor of enabling marijuana businesses to operate and often cited the city’s financial struggles as a reason to welcome them.
“I think the cannabis industry is a pot of gold,” said resident Jean Johnson.
Ultimately, the city council voted 4: 3 in favor of banning marijuana companies from operating in Hamtramck, with the votes being divided on a Muslim and non-Muslim basis.
However, the city council’s action came too late. Quality Roots was licensed to operate a pharmacy before the ban came into force and opened its doors earlier this month. A third shop is expected to open soon.
“I’m a stack-it-high-and-let-it-fly guy,” said Aric Klar, the owner of Quality Roots, in an interview in December, a few weeks before it opened. “This is a place where we can make a very powerful impact.”
How Hamtramck got here
Hamtramck’s city council began wrestling with potential marijuana companies in the city back in 2018. Michigan voters legalized medical marijuana a decade earlier, but there were no companies active in the city.
A regulation was made too Establish rules for medical marijuana companies and town hall meetings were held to measure public feedback.
The setback, particularly from the Muslim community, was intense. In response to this pressure, the city council dropped the ordinance.
“They didn’t want any part of medical marijuana, period based on the pressure they are getting from people in the local community,” said James Allen, Hamtramck City attorney.
Shortly thereafter, Michigan voters overwhelmingly passed a referendum on legalizing recreational activities. However, the measure was narrowly rejected by the Hamtramck voters.
Michigan law requires cities to proactively prohibit marijuana companies from operating within their borders. Hundreds of churches have taken this step. Many other cities have regulations in place to limit how many companies can be licensed and where they can operate, often leading to costly litigation.
In Hamtramck, an ordinance banning marijuana companies was put to a vote in October 2019. It ultimately failed, however, largely because two Muslim council members who were expected to support the ban did not attend the meeting.
Instead, Hamtramck did nothing. That left the door wide open for Pleasantrees and other companies to obtain the necessary licenses and open to business.
“They saw Hamtramck as an ideal place to place their businesses and they started investing accordingly,” Allen said, noting its proximity to Detroit.
But the setback after the opening of the first pot shop was immense. As a result, the city council quickly prohibited other companies from obtaining licenses. Everyone warned, however, that the outcry from angry residents and the city council’s subsequent actions were no different from across the country.
“They do what American politicians do: they listen to their voters,” he said.
The mayor also insists that the problem is not just a gap between Muslim and non-Muslim communities. She shows up a current debate That was on the subject and on the numerous comments that have surfaced from people of different races.
“It’s not easy to say that Muslims are against, Christians are for it, and that this shows a wider cultural divide in the city,” said Majewski. “When you’re talking to people privately, it’s probably a lot more complicated.”
What’s next for Hamtramck?
There is little chance the current ban on additional marijuana stores will hold up.
During the city council meeting that passed the regulation banning pot shops, a proposal was made to lay down rules for existing businesses. However, this measure was rejected by the Council.
Linda Ward from Hamtramck said she thought it was a big mistake to reject this regulation. She fears the city will open itself to litigation by not applying a set of rules for potential marijuana companies.
“I’m a homeowner here in Hamtramck,” said Ward. “I don’t want my property taxes to go up on something so stupid when they could have passed an ordinance instead to regulate it.”
Ward is now leading a civil revolt against the marijuana business ban. Under Hamtramcks City lawAn ordinance needs to be reconsidered by the city council when a petition requesting a lawsuit receives signatures equal to 15 percent of the votes in the most recent mayoral election.
Ward and her allies say they secured enough signatures to reach that threshold. That means the city council has to rethink the regulation. If not, a referendum will be held where voters will decide whether to support the marijuana business ban ordinance.
The earliest thing that could happen under state law would be May, according to Allen, the prosecutor. In the meantime, the ordinance would be put on hold, meaning an unlimited number of marijuana companies could continue to be licensed and opened for business in Hamtramck.
What the city council will do is hard to see. None of the four members who supported the ban in December responded to requests from POLITICO for comments.
However, most observers expect the Council to punt on discussing the issue, which is expected to happen at the next Council meeting on January 26th. This would mean that the regulation will be invalid until the voters weigh themselves.
Pleasantrees’ Sobczak said the pharmacy is in favor of efforts to override the ban on additional marijuana stores, although doing so would undoubtedly lead to increased competition for the young potty store. He said it would be hypocritical to keep other companies out after arguing that Pleasantrees would have a positive impact on the town of Hamtramck.
“That speaks from both sides of your mouth,” said Sobczak. “We’re trying to stay in tune with our messages here as a company that believes in what we do.”