SOUTH HAVEN — Thanks to a citizen-led referendum, South Haven city voters will be deciding Nov. 5 whether to allow or ban recreational marijuana businesses from locating in town.
Proposal 1 will be included as part of the city council election next Tuesday. Polls will be open from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. in the lower level of South Haven City Hall, 539 Phoenix St.
While approximately 600 municipal governments in Michigan have voted to opt out of the state’s new law that legalizes cannabis and businesses associated with its production and sale, South Haven City Council and the planning commission earlier this year crafted a proposed ordinance to allow certain types of pot-related businesses to locate in certain areas of the city.
However, South Haven Concerned Citizens, a group opposed to the legalization of cannabis, gathered enough signatures to force a referendum vote that essentially lets voters determine the fate of pot establishments in town.
Voters who cast a “yes” ballot will be voting in favor of a proposed ordinance banning pot-related establishments. Voters who don’t want pot businesses to be banned, should vote “no.”
Some people think the ballot wording will confuse voters.
“Proposal 1 is very confusing,” said Fred Meyer, who favors recreational marijuana businesses. “Normally if you vote for something you vote yes, and no if you’re against it. If you read this proposal, it’s exactly the opposite.”
Whatever the wording, Proposal 1 has generated quite a bit of public comment, both pro and con, at recent city council meetings, including the most recent one on Oct. 21.
“I’d encourage a no vote,” said Patrick McKearnan. “A lot of us believe in free enterprise. That was the whole point of this country starting out. I don’t see us becoming ‘Hippieville USA.’ ... People (who use cannabis) don’t always have the facilities to grow marijuana or process it.”
However, Rod DeMaso hopes Proposal 1 passes. “What concerns me is the talk of potential tax revenue and jobs,” he said. “What I haven’t heard is the potential negative impact to the community, our youth and future if commercialization of marijuana materializes. There’s no cost-benefit analysis that’s been done.”
If the measure fails, council members plan to re-examine the proposed ordinance to allow cannabis businesses in certain sections of the city.
Michigan’s recreational marijuana law has a provision that gives voters in a community the final say in deciding whether to allow recreational marijuana to exist in their towns, even if the local government previously decided to let them do so.
Even though 600 municipal governments opted out of the new pot law after it was passed by Michigan voters in 2018, relatively few have dealt with citizen-led referendums.
In the August elections, voters in three Michigan towns gathered enough votes to ban recreational pot in their communities. The communities were the Village of Vanderbilt, Highland Park and Crystal Lake Township. More referendums are scheduled for the November election.