SOUTH HAVEN — A group of citizens that vowed earlier this year to let South Haven voters – not city hall – decide whether to ban recreational marijuana establishments is making good on its word.
The Concerned Citizens of South Haven gathered enough signatures on a petition that asks city council to adopt an ordinance prohibiting all recreational marijuana businesses within city limits. Individuals who violate the proposed ordinance would be subject to a civil fine ranging from $100-$500.
The new state law gives local governments the option to allow or ban pot businesses, but it also gives residents the opportunity to force a vote by collecting petition signatures from 5 percent of voters who cast a ballot in the most recent gubernatorial election.
In South Haven, the group needed to gather at least 105 signatures to put the petition in front of council members for their consideration, according to City Clerk Travis Sullivan.
“The petitioners collected 142 signatures,” Sullivan said. Some of the signatures though were from residents living outside the city limits, while others needed further examination to determine their validity. Even so, the group will now be able to legally proceed with the petition.
“Excluding the questionable signatures, the group still had 128 valid signatures, thus moving the proposed ordinance to city council,” Sullivan said.
The city council's next scheduled meeting is Monday, Aug. 5.
“Because the petitioners have collected the required number of signatures, the city council must now make a decision on the proposed ordinance,” Sullivan said. “The council has the option to adopt the full ordinance, as written, or reject the ordinance, and adopt a resolution sending the question to the November ballot for the city's voters to decide.”
City council members in February voted to temporarily opt out of the state's new recreational marijuana law that allows cannabis businesses to locate in town. They did so to spend more time determining whether to let establishments open for business and which types to allow.
Michigan voters made the recreational marijuana act a reality when they overwhelmingly passed a ballot issue in 2018 legalizing pot. In South Haven, 52 percent of city residents who voted in the election OK'd the ballot issue.
Despite that fact, the Concerned Citizens of South Haven, a small but vocal group of residents, has attended city council and planning commission meetings regularly to oppose passage of an ordinance to allow and regulate cannabis businesses in the city.
Rachel Sankofski is one of the Concerned Citizens' members. She said Friday the group intended to issue a formal statement soon.
The planning commission has been working since February to develop an ordinance to regulate both medical and recreational marijuana establishments in the city and to determine where they should be located. The proposed ordinance has not yet been approved by the city council.