SOUTH HAVEN — Although no decision has been formally made, South Haven City Council members are considering allowing some marijuana-related businesses in town.
Council members met Monday for a work session to give the planning commission input on whether or not to allow medical and recreational cannabis businesses locate within the city limits.
“It’s a challenging issue,” Mayor Scott Smith said to a full house of residents at city hall. “There are very different thoughts on this. We’re here to discuss various business types, if we want them and what types.”
The new state law creates six different types of recreational marijuana-related businesses: retail outlets, transportation companies, grow operations, testing facilities, processing plants, and micro-businesses that would be allowed to grow, process and sell cannabis.
The majority of council members said they would consider allowing all types, except for micro-businesses. Council members also appeared to be split 3-3 on whether to allow retail establishments. Council members who favored further study of the issue said if pot establishments are allowed, stipulations should be placed on them.
Council members said pot-related businesses should be limited in number, located in industrial sections of town, located 1,000 feet away from other businesses, not be allowed in residential areas, and take steps to control cannabis odor.
Uncertainty under the new law is also a problem.
“This new law is as clear as mud,” said Jennifer Rigterink, legislative associate for the Michigan Municipal League, who was in attendance at the meeting to answer council members’ questions. “The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (which would be in charge of issuing licenses to marijuana establishments) has to promulgate rules. Until the rules are set in place there are questions we cannot answer.”
As a result of the uncertainty, a number of communities throughout Michigan have opted out of the new law temporarily to spend more time determining the ramifications of allowing marijuana businesses in their towns.
“This same conversation is happening in council chambers across the state,” Rigterink said.
City Council members appeared ready in December to opt out of the recreational marijuana law for up to a year to give the planning commission time to study the issue, but when the proposal came up for a vote, that failed in a 3-3 tie.
However, city officials have taken up the issue once again to have a say in determining what if any medical and recreational marijuana businesses to allow.
Some audience members said the city is taking too much time to study the issue.
“It’s prolonging the inevitable,” said Kendra Kingsbury. “Now that we have this thing that’s legal, let’s make it inconvenient for our residents? It’s legal now. We’ll all have to get used to it.”
Pat Clausen, who owns the Curve Inn, worries that if marijuana businesses are banned in town, pot will be sold illegally.
“Because you don’t have a place for people to buy it, you’re going to have a crowd of people selling out of their pockets. ... The risk of violence is substantial,” she said.
Clausen and another resident, Pam Chappell, asked council members to reconsider whether to allow pot-related micro-businesses.
“In view of the popularity of microbreweries, what’s the difference? It’s (recreational marijuana) not illegal anymore,” Chappell said.
But other people in the audience believe the city should steer clear of allowing any type of marijuana-related businesses.
“Those who need medical marijuana in our area have access to it,” said Cathy Sicard, a member of the Concerned Citizens of South Haven, a group opposed to marijuana businesses. “Those who choose recreational marijuana (in their homes) can still do it. We ask the city to opt out on any and all facilities in our community. Opt out for the greater good and safety of our community.”
Jim Sankofski, owner of Bunde’s Bakery Cafe, along with his wife, Rachel, said he’s already dealing with the negative effects of legalized marijuana and doesn’t like it.
“Since the law passed we’ve had two instances where our business is surrounded by marijuana (odor) coming from cottages to the north and south of our business,” he said. “Children and grandchildren could smell it. If it were me, I’d say, ‘let’s get the heck out of here.’ Where is it going to take my business? There has to be other businesses that feel the same way.”
One business in town could profit from the new recreational marijuana law. Scott Wall, owner of New Age Laboratories, said his company would qualify to obtain a license as a marijuana safety compliance lab.
“Since the law passed we have not had a day go by without a person calling us wanting to do business,” he said. “This would equate to a quarter-million dollar business.” Jobs created would be geared to college graduates. The jobs would be “well-paying,” Wall said.