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FOX 11 Investigates: Michigan still sorting out marijuana rules

FOX 11 Investigates: Michigan still sorting out marijuana rules
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MENOMINEE, Mich. (WLUK) -- Recreational marijuana is legal in Michigan! But just because it’s legal doesn’t mean you’re free to indulge—not yet, anyway. And in some cases and places--never. But that doesn’t mean some aren’t trying to get a jump on the rules, yet to be written.

On Dec. 6, Michigan became the 10th state in the country to legalize recreational marijuana. Supporters celebrated by lighting up. But when the haze settled it was clear, sorting out the marijuana industry in Michigan is going to take time.

“We’re looking almost a year from now before we’ll see some type of commercial or retail establishments,” said Tony Graff, Menominee city manager.

To sell marijuana and marijuana products, one needs a retail license, which are not yet available.

“The licensing regulations are going through Lansing right now at the state level,” said Graff.

The state has until December of this year to sort out the licensing process for retailers and growers. That means while recreational pot is technically legal in the state, you can’t legally buy it. Individual communities can even vote to ban retail establishments. More than 60 communities have already done so.

In the U.P. four communities have already banned recreational marijuana businesses (Caspian, Ironwood, Pentland Township and Sault Ste Marie.)

“Our city council still needs to make a decision, do we want to opt out, have no marijuana, rec marijuana, as growers, licenses or retail in our community,” said Graff.

Menominee County Sheriff's Lt. Jeff Brunelle admits Michigan didn't fully prepare for all the potential issues legalizing recreational pot might bring, simply because of the way it became law.

"It was a referendum that was put on by signatures, so this isn’t a law that was researched by the legislature and groomed," Brunelle said. "The gray area concerning the laws has some interpreting what’s allowed on their own."

Menominee County Sheriff’s officials tell me the legalization of marijuana is not a win for law enforcement. The laws regulating marijuana have not yet been sorted out by the state. They say that could take a couple of years and that makes doing their jobs now that much more difficult.

“Oh yes, certainly that’s a frustrating part. We’d like to see more direction from the state in that area,” confirmed Brunelle.

The grey area concerning the laws has some interpreting for themselves as to what’s allowed.

Adam Zimmerman set up the Hush Lounge, a private Social Club in Menominee in an apartment above his Tattoo business. He says for a fee people can join the club, and gather with others who want to smoke marijuana.

Zimmerman talked with me off camera about the venture, saying indulging in marijuana is perfectly legal in private homes and settings out of public view.

While selling marijuana is illegal, individuals over 21 can grow up to 12 plants for their own personal use. It’s also legal to gift marijuana to family and friends, who he says might just be members of a social club.

Zimmerman has filed for a social club permit with the city.

“At this point he’s applying as a private social club,” said Graff. “We can’t get into what the use is going to be, pool tables, music, he’s planning on doing music so it’s more than just a place for people to enjoy their recreational marijuana too.”

Zimmerman says he expects plenty of visitors from Wisconsin. And that has law enforcement in Marinette concerned about the border about an increase in traffic because of the marijuana.

“I would assume so. I would assume something that’s new, it’s like an attraction that opens up and you open up a carnival and watch the people come and that’s the expectation that Michigan is definitely hoping for,” said Lt. Scott Ries, with Marinette Police.

Ries points out since medical marijuana was approved in Michigan ten years ago, he’s seen drugged driving arrests surpass drunken driving arrests.

With the added availability of marijuana in Michigan, Ries says it’s important for those visiting Michigan to understand where the state line is located.

“It’s everybody’s responsibility to know the laws when they’re travelling from state to state,” said Ries.

Marinette Police is working closely with Menominee law enforcement. Both states have a zero-tolerance policy for drugged driving. In Michigan, the first offense can be criminally charged.

For those who think they’ll take a little something home, not so fast.

Brunelle has a message for those partaking in legal marijuana.

“To make sure you know where the boundary is. If you use recreational marijuana in Michigan it needs to stay in Michigan,” said Brunelle.

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The Menominee County Sheriff’s office has been working with Marinette Law enforcement to better watch for impaired drivers on the roads. They were briefed by a group out of Colorado on issues that Colorado encountered when it legalized marijuana. They also did their own field sobriety test training with the help of medical marijuana patients.

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