| Detroit Free Press
A ban on marijuana establishments in Hamtramck has been repealed following a vote by city council Tuesday night.
A resident petition that garnered nearly 500 signatures put marijuana back on the Hamtramck City Council agenda, more than a month after the council voted to ban recreational marijuana dispensaries. The ban came after the city’s first dispensary, Pleasantrees, opened in November and was adopted Dec. 8.
The ban, introduced in a November special meeting called by council members Mohammed Alsomiri, Nayeem Choudhury, and Mohammed Hassan, included both recreational and medical marijuana facilities. Supporters of the repeal cite the financial benefits that could change the tide in Hamtramck, which is the poorest town in Michigan.
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“This is an issue that’s long stemmed, and it’s not the fault of the mayor or council or city manager that we have funding shortfalls entirely,” said Rep. Abraham Aiyash of the 4th District preceding the vote. “This is a systemic issue due to revenue sharing that has not been fairly given out to cities, which is causing a whole lot of problems for communities like Hamtramck. We should try to use this as an opportunity to think about how we move forward as a community.”
With the presentation of the petition, the operation of the ordinance was suspended in accordance to city charter. Now, the council is tasked with creating a new marijuana ordinance to allow for marijuana facilities, including regulations and limitations.
“This recent debate about marijuana brought out a lot of hateful rhetoric and Islamophobia,” said resident Linda Ward, who organized the petition. “I also experienced some hateful rhetoric to ranging from I hate Muslims, and I should move out of Hamtramck and leave it to the Muslims. My family’s been here for over 100 years and I love living here in this multicultural city, which includes my Muslim neighbors.”
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Despite outrage from residents in the majority-minority town, a second marijuana dispensary opened shop in December. The city council’s failure to formally opt out of allowing marijuana businesses with the state lets dispensaries open up under the radar.
Hamtramck Mayor Karen Majewski and Councilman Ian Perrotta have supported the establishment of dispensaries in the city, casting the two votes against the ban in November.
Some residents called for the measure to be left for voters to decide. If the council did not appeal the ban, it would have appeared on the ballot for voters in May.
“I would like the issue to not be reconsidered and let the people of the city decide with a vote, let them vote if they want it or not this way the council won’t have to take the blame for anything,” a resident named Aziz, who did not provide his last name.
The council also voted to approve ballot language for a residency requirement for those running for office in the city and to create a three-term limit for council members and mayor for voters to decide on in the August election.
“I think that term limits are effective in higher offices, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to limit people who have experience if they decide to continue to run for office,” Councilman Ian Perrotta said. “Three elections, either you’re going to be burned out by the third term or you’re going to be incredibly successful and you should continue doing it. I don’t think anybody is going to continue to elect candidates that aren’t qualified.
“I think that a community that’s a small community like Hamtramck is differently situated than a statewide pool of candidates so you are drawing from a limited group of people that are interested in this type of thing and I don’t know if it would be a good idea to limit that further.”
A pay raise for city council members, the mayor and mayor pro tem was also included in Tuesday’s agenda but was dropped by Councilman Nayeem Choudhury, who introduced the resolution.
The Hamtramck City Council meets again Feb. 9.