SOUTH HAVEN — For more than a year, New Age Laboratories owner Scott Wall has wanted to provide testing services to ensure whether medical marijuana products are safely made.
But his plans are in a holding pattern because South Haven city officials have yet to approve an ordinance to allow marijuana-related businesses to exist.
Wall’s wait, however, may soon be over.
City council members voted 5-1 on Monday to ask the planning commission to consider revising a proposed marijuana ordinance so that it only allows medical marijuana safety compliance facilities, such as New Age Laboratories, within the city limits.
“I think it’s something we should look at,” said Mayor Pro Tem Clark Gruber. “He’s set up for it (testing). There isn’t any manufacture or sale.”
Council member Joe Reeser agreed. “I’m all for helping this business,” he said. “It doesn’t mean we’re going to make, ship or sell it (medical marijuana) here.”
The proposed marijuana ordinance has been gathering dust over the past several months, due to a citizen-led campaign that has led to a November ballot issue asking voters whether they want to allow recreational marijuana businesses in town. However, the ballot issue only addresses recreational marijuana facilities; meaning that council members could conceivably scale back the proposed ordinance to address only medical marijuana establishments.
However, council members made it clear Monday they are only interested in allowing medical marijuana testing facilities because a local business, which has already applied for state permits to test cannabis, could suffer financial consequences.
“We are trying to be clear to the public we are not intending to defraud the November ballot,” City Manager Brian Dissette said. “It’s a little bit of a tricky balance trying to help a local business but trying to be very respectful of the fact we have a citizen’s petition that is coming in November for the overall community to decide how we move forward with recreational marijuana.”
Council member George Sleeper was the only council member to vote no on asking planners to consider whether to revise the proposed marijuana ordinance.
He argued that planners should address whether to allow all five medical-marijuana facilities to exist, not just one type.
“I share other people’s concerns,” he said, “but I also wonder about other businesses that could be affiliated with medical marijuana. We should also have the planning commission look at those.”
Mayor Scott Smith differed.
“I’ve been a proponent of this man doing this testing,” he said. “This (testing medical marijuana) is a safety issue. It’s small samples. It’s an existing business. If we can allow him to get going with his business it’s going to help him immediately. Others will have to come after that.”