The Hamtramck Drug Free Community Coalition appoints new leadership, with a renewed focus on community involvement.

By Simon Albaugh – Yemeni American News

HAMTRAMCK, Mich. – No matter what side of the Hamtramck’s marijuana debate someone finds themselves, most people can agree that underage use of marijuana is a problem in desperate need of being solved. Not only does it cause harm to certain areas of a young person’s brain responsible for emotional regulation, the legal challenges are clearer than ever before on what age group is permitted to use marijuana.

Recently, the Hamtramck Drug Free Community Coalition appointed their new Director, Lara Girdwood. As a former AmeriCorps VISTA Member with Hamtramck’s Piast Institute, Girdwood has become intimately involved with service-oriented action in Hamtramck.

The stated purpose of the HDFCC is not to create a prohibition of marijuana, but rather to attempt to address the social, political and cultural factors of Hamtramck that may contribute to youth substance abuse. For Lara Girdwood, she sees this as written in the DNA of the Coalition.

“The benefit of a coalition is that it’s not one person leading the effort,” Girdwood said. “A coalition is meant to bring together a variety of different community organizations, community leaders, community businesses, and just community members. Everyone with their different background, their different resources, they’re different networks, they’re different interests are kind of coming together for one cause.”

Lara Girdwood has been appointed as the new Director of the Hamtramck Drug Free Community Coalition. The first goal is to bolster community engagement with the Coalition. 

The first thing that Girdwood will try to do as HDFCC’s new Director is expand community participation in the Coalition’s decision-making process.

Hamtramck has Unique Challenges Ahead

Hamtramck currently has 69 liquor licenses in the city. That’s one liquor license on every .03 square miles and doesn’t even include tobacco businesses. The Coalition incorporates these businesses into their planning by canvassing and helping to update signage for age-restricted products. However, with an environment that’s saturated in products like that, it will always be a challenge.

“Unfortunately, sometimes no matter how much education one receives on a topic, if the environment doesn’t change, then it makes it difficult to put the knowledge into the right practice,” Girdwood said.

At the past city council meeting, a Hamtramck High School Junior named Hemyar Al-Jamali spoke up about what he saw as an alarming situation in his school. With hallways often smelling like marijuana, ease of getting marijuana, and a broad concern among peers over the situation, Al-Jamali spoke about his experience.

“I’ve attended schools in Hamtramck most of my life, and I can tell you that students are smoking marijuana and selling it in schools regularly,” Al-Jamali said. “This is no secret, even when they’re hiding it in places where they cannot easily be found.

“When you walk through the school, you can smell the scent of marijuana… This is not just happening in cities outside of Hamtramck, this is also happening in Hamtramck. As a student, I see things and hear things that most of you adults would not. I think most students would agree with me when I say that recreational marijuana is already getting into the wrong hands.”

HDFCC Needs Involvement

As a coalition, the Hamtramck Drug Free Community Coalition depends local input in order to guide its action. Decisions about how to bring positive change for the community depend on what residents, community leaders and local businesses outline as the challenges that they see.

Anyone can participate in the meetings, which happen on the second Thursday of each month – although due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the meetings have been held virtually. The next meeting will be held on January 14, at 11:00am.

“We would just love to see people at the table, voice their opinions and bring their ideas to the table, voice their frustrations and offer their ideas as well,” Girdwood said. “Again, that’s the beauty of a coalition is that it brings together people to amplify our resources.”


If you would like to be involved at the next Hamtramck Drug Free Community Coalition, you can email Lara Girdwood at