The city of South Haven is celebrating its 150th anniversary. As a part of this celebration, many other groups and organizations are lifting up their own history as a part of the city.
First Congregational Church, where I serve, is one of the two oldest churches in the city. Part of our history is a story of one of our first pastors, Rev E. A. Paddock, who, when he came to a young South Haven in 1867, walked down Phoenix Street and around the town on dirt streets and the few board sidewalks. He noted the ships loading lumber, bark and fruit, and passed many saloons. He returned to the church and proclaimed, “When I walked down this Murderer’s Row, your main street, to the lighthouse and back, I passed twelve drunken men. Brethren you need a pastor!” The church hired him on the spot.
Later, in the 1920s and ’30s. women from the church were very active in the Temperance Movement. Many of their meetings were held at the church. There are records of sermons supporting their efforts.
When I moved to South Haven in 1993 there were a handful of restaurants where you could purchase alcohol. I seem to recall that getting a liquor license was nearly impossible. I remember big conversations when a small Mexican restaurant was closing downtown and the efforts made to secure their license.
How things have changed. There are now at least 10 restaurants downtown that serve alcohol, including a favorite breakfast and lunch place. There are at least two-wine tasting establishments, and two craft breweries downtown. Another craft brewery is just outside of town and many other wineries as well.
During the Icebreaker celebration, we even have a pub crawl that is promoted by the organizations in the city and approved by the city! It appears our attitude toward alcohol has changed drastically over the years.
Personally, I enjoy a drink now and then and have a son who is employed in the beer industry, just to be clear.
I offer all of this background as we approach election time in November. There will be a ballot proposal regarding recreational marijuana. As I understand this proposal, it involves five different types of recreational marijuana facilities: facilities for growing, processing, safety compliance, transporters and provisioning centers. The proposal would not affect any medical marijuana provisional centers or grow facilities, which are regulated separately.
For clarification, I do not use medical or recreational marijuana. I don’t plan to use it in the future. I do have some family members and know some others who do, but that is their choice, not mine.
Both are now legal in Michigan by vote of the people. Why are we then looking to prohibit this in our community? The proposal would eliminate some businesses aspects, particularly testing and processing, that could impact local businesses.
I began this article with a look at the business of alcohol in South Haven. It is a major part of our economy. Does alcohol get abused? Certainly. Has crime risen because of he increase in establishments offering this product? Not that I am aware of. Has our quality of life deteriorated? No. Back in the ’20s and ’30s, those were some of the fears. It appears to me that many of the views we have on marijuana today are similar to those we once held regarding alcohol.
We have come a long way in 150 years. I believe that reasonable people will live with the changes regarding recreational and medical marijuana just fine in the coming years. Will there be some challenges? Most definitely. That is true with all types of changes. Let us not lose our heads over this and work together.
In closing, I would offer that my opinions offered here are mine. I speak for myself, not my congregation or my family.
Jeffrey Dick lives in South Haven. His email is: email@example.com