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Middleville to revisit allowing marijuana facilities

Greg Chandler

Staff Writer

 

Nine months after passing an ordinance to opt out of allowing any recreational marijuana facilities in Middleville, village leaders will take a second look at whether to allow them.

 

The Village Council on Tuesday at its committee of the whole meeting directed the Planning Commission to further study the issue and come back with a recommendation by this summer on how to regulate such businesses.

 

“I thought it would be good to talk about it again,” said Trustee Amanda Fisk, who said she believes there is a potential tax revenue stream some Michigan communities now allowing marijuana-based businesses, such as Ann Arbor and Evart, have begun to see that Middleville may miss out on.

 

“Other communities are not going to keep waiting, and they're going to start opting in, sooner or later, and we're going to miss out,” Fisk said.

 

On April 23 of last year, the Village Council voted unanimously to prohibit marijuana-based establishments in Middleville, with the Planning Commission to revisit the ordinance once state regulations were finalized.  
 

The discussion comes as the state Marijuana Regulatory Agenda, a division of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, extended by an additional six months its emergency administrative rules for implementing the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act.

 

The extension gives municipalities through July 3 to make decisions on whether they want to allow marijuana-based facilities in their communities, MRA spokesman David Harns said.

 

Michigan voters in November 2018 approved Proposal 1, which legalized marijuana for recreational use. In Middleville, 60 percent of the village's voters supported the measure – 793 yes votes to 528 no votes, Village Clerk Elaine Denton said.

 

Some marijuana-based businesses have expressed interest in locating in Middleville, Village Planning and Zoning Administrator Brian Urquhart said.

 

“Right before I walked (into Tuesday's meeting), I took one call (expressing interest),” Urquhart said.

 

Middleville officials have had discussions with city leaders in Lowell, which has been one of the few communities in the state to opt into allowing marijuana-based facilities.

 

“They've moved to the point where they're using the state licensing to vet all applicants. They chose to take a position that the market will figure out what the market needs to be, so they did not limit the number of facilities they would allow inside of Lowell,” Village Manager Duane Weeks said.

 

“It could be two (facilities); it could be 10. They felt that going through the process to make a determination which ones to accept or not would open them up to some legal issues.”

 

Macenzie Brown, a Middleville resident who owns the Wellness Boutique in Caledonia, spoke out in favor of allowing marijuana-based establishments in the village as a way to help clients who are looking for alternatives to prescription medications. Brown has already been prequalified by the state for a 500-plant marijuana growing operation in Baltimore Township.

 

“Having a safe access facility in the area would solve so many problems, not only with the quality of products, but just the basic knowledge (of cannabis),” Brown told council members. “Someone who has a lot of pain might not need cannabis flowers, they might need edibles, and not only edibles, but they might need a specific type of edible that would be able to last all day. I feel it's important to have a place where people with questions can go and get answers ... from people who are experienced and knowledgable and can point them in the right direction.”

 

Most council members said they felt taking a second look at the issue was worthwhile. Trustee Mike Cramer said allowing a legal cannabis-based business in the village would “run the black market out.”

 

“It'd make law enforcement's job easier, and for the people that are in need of the product, it would make it easier for them, too,”  said Cramer, who is the council's liaison to the Planning Commission. “We had 6-7 residents at a Planning Commission meeting come in and say, 'This is something I need to survive,' and they're driving to Jackson (to get their product).”

 

At the Planning Commission meeting later Tuesday night, Cramer expressed interest in studying the experience of Evart, a northern lower Michigan community of about 1,900 residents where a recreational marijuana establishment opened last month.

 

“I'm not so much worried about the store, as I am how the community went through it, and anything they might have had growing pain-wise,” Cramer said. “It's Ann Arbor or Evart right now (in terms of cities with existing businesses), and we're definitely not Ann Arbor. I'd love to hear what Evart went through and go that route, if there's something they would change in their ordinance, in hindsight, that we could correct before we draft our (ordinance).”

 

Trustee Phil Van Noord remains skeptical about the benefits of allowing marijuana-based businesses in the community, and questions what the cost would be for allowing it.

 

“How are we going to supervise it? How are we going to figure out what's right and what's wrong?” Van Noord asked. “That's going to take time. Are we going to employ more people to do that kind of (enforcement)?... I haven't, in my mind, seen enough to say this is a good thing for the community.”

 

The Planning Commission's Ordinance Committee is expected to study the issue and forward a proposal to the full commission, with no specific timetable proposed.

 

 

 

 

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