SOUTH HAVEN — South Haven City Council members came several steps closer this week to letting medical marijuana testing facilities to locate in town.
Council members on Monday approved two motions: One, to formally introduce a proposed ordinance to allow and regulate certain types of marijuana establishments, and to ask the planning commission to provide a report on the possibility of revising the proposed ordinance to only allow for medical marijuana testing facilities.
Planners are expected to meet in early October to discuss whether the ordinance should be revised. If they decide it should, they will then send their recommendation to the city council for its approval.
The council’s actions come on the heels of a citizen-led ballot initiative in which South Haven city voters in November will decide whether to allow recreational marijuana establishments to locate in town. However, the ballot does not address medical cannabis facilities.
City staff and council members stressed they are not trying to circumvent the voting process. Rather, they said they’re dealing with a locally established business owner who has been wanting to expand his testing lab to include the testing of either recreational or medical marijuana to determine whether it is safe for use.
“We’ve had a business owner who has repeatedly said if zoning (for marijuana businesses) is permitted, they would be providing those testing services to Southwest Michigan and possibly across the state,” said Brian Dissette, South Haven city manager.
Scott Wall, owner of New Age Laboratories, has attended planning commission and city council meetings since February to state that his company wants to obtain a state license to become a medical safety compliance lab to test marijuana.
“There is a lack of testing facilities in the state,” Wall said during Monday’s council meeting. “This would be an opportunity for bringing more jobs and property taxes.”
A majority of council members seemed receptive to Wall.
“This is a local business trying to create jobs,” Mayor Scott Smith said. “Job creation is one of our priorities. This is about testing a substance that is now legal in our state to make sure it’s safe.”
“They would be testing something that has been approved in the state since 2008,” said Mayor Pro Tem Clark Gruber, referencing Michigan’s medical marijuana act, which was approved 11 years ago.
If the council does decide to allow medical marijuana testing businesses to locate in town, there are only two areas they could exist – east of Blue Star Highway and along Kalamazoo Street, south of Aylworth in a mixed-use commercial and industrial section of the city.