2017-07-06 / News

Seekers of Marijuana Businesses Meet With ‘Wait and See’ Approach From Townships

Officials Want To See How State Laws Shape Up Before Setting Local Policies
By Erich T. Doerr

Marijuana is a restricted substance in Michigan for medical use and illegal for recreational use, and the topic is fast becoming a point of discussion in the townships around St. Ignace. Both St. Ignace and Moran townships have received inquiries about setting up dispensaries, and both are taking a wait-and-see approach as discussions downstate consider legalization of the drug.

In Moran Township, Supervisor Jim Durm was contacted by Gulliver resident James Dash about converting a vacant building in the township into a dispensary. Mr. Dash spoke with Mr. Durm about the topic, noting the possible jobs the business could create, then met with the full board of trustees Wednesday, June 7. All discussions were considered preliminary. The building was later sold to another person before Mr. Dash had filed for any permits for his proposed plan.

Mr. Durm said the township would have needed much more detail before a permit could be issued, noting it would not be appropriate to do so unless they had a lot of detail about how the business would be run. If a marijuana business were given a permit to operate before a community had an ordinance about their operations, it could result in the business being grandfathered around the ordinance.

“For a government entity like ourselves, we need a few more assurances than what that provided,” Mr. Durm said.

The Moran Township board had voted down a resolution that would have allowed medical marijuanarelated businesses at its April 5 meeting, and has had no formal applications from anyone looking to set up such businesses. The township made the decision on the recommendation of the Michigan Townships Association.

While the township has opted to disallow dispensaries for now, Mr. Durm said, it could reconsider the topic if the state’s marijuana laws become better defined and clearer to work with. The township has the option to draft its own ordinance that would allow the businesses to operate. For now, the township will be standing back, amid concern Michigan’s marijuana laws are about to be challenged by lawsuits, to see how the larger discussions turn out.

The Moran Township board still plans to speak with Mackinac County Sheriff Scott Strait about the legal details related to marijuana at its Wednesday, July 5, meeting. If the township were to change its policies to allow dispensaries, it would be allowed to receive a small piece of the business profits. The state would receive 3%, with a quarter of that amount coming back to the township. Mr. Durm said he does not expect that it could be a notable source of in- come for the community.

St. Ignace Township was approached earlier this year by a person who proposed constructing a marijuana dispensary, and all discussion related to the topic was also considered preliminary. The township does not have a policy regarding marijuana and will hold off on developing one until it sees how the push for legalization goes downstate.

“This is something that is all new,” Township Supervisor Steven Campbell said. Marijuana “will be here, no matter if it is sold right here or people go to neighboring communities to get it with their medical cards.”

Mr. Campbell said the state is not expected to make any decisions regarding marijuana until perhaps November. St. Ignace Township has also received some policy information from the Michigan Townships Association, but he said it was vague. Early board discussions have not favored such facilities. The board is unlikely to discuss the issue during the next several months, while its attention is turned to other topics, such as water main improvements in Evergreen Shores. A town hall meeting for public input on the marijuana topic could be held when discussion resumes.

Mr. Campbell said he understands that marijuana has some medicinal benefits and, in general, he thinks allowing it in the township would be similar to current medical prescription services. He thinks money coming in to local communities from its sale could have benefits, pointing to the success of Colorado in lowering its debts with the new income after marijuana was legalized there.

In Clark Township, Trustee Sarah Patton reported at the township’s Wednesday, June 21, meeting that its planning commission had tabled its discussion of medical marijuana facilities because of concerns about what could occur with state laws. Treasurer Jason Sherlund was in agreement, noting that with the state’s current marijuana laws, doing nothing is likely the best course of action until things shake out.

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