Otsego city opts out of medical marijuana law

Daniel Pepper

Otsego city commissioners have decided to opt out of licensing and allowing medical marijuana facilities.
Mayor Cyndi Trobeck said, “I’m not interested in being the first, but I’m also not interested in being the last.”
Commissioners passed the resolution 4-1, with Commissioner Nick Breedveld voting no, at a special meeting Wednesday, Jan. 3.
“There’s empty storefronts downtown right now,” Breedveld said.
Breedveld made a motion to table the matter for further discussion and to seek public input, which several commissioners said they hadn’t heard much of.
Commissioners voted down that motion 1-4.
After Michigan voters approved a ballot question in 2008 allowing marijuana for medical use in the state, several cities like Detroit and Lansing have allowed secondary businesses to operate. Then, last year the state legislature passed the Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act, which created a regime where five different classes of business could deal with medical marijuana.
All are to be state licensed and they will only be allowed, however, if a local community allows them. Marijuana remains designated as a dangerous drug by the federal government. The Attorney General recently announced rescinding a rule directing federal prosecutors not to pursue cases in states whose voters had legalized medical or recreational marijuana.
Otsego commissioners heard a presentation in December from attorney Ken Lane on the new law.
The types of business are growers, processors, safety compliance (testing) facilities, provisioning centers and secure transportation facilities. Provisioning centers are more commonly called dispensaries and are where patients are meant to obtain medical marijuana.
The law also creates a fee structure where the state, counties and local units split the tax proceeds from such businesses and the local units can charge up to $5,000 for each license.
Breedveld said he’d support considering all the kinds of marijuana business.
“We can control what they do,” he said. “You can’t do that with the liquor stores.”
He said he supported the idea mainly to boost business in Otsego and because no one had made a convincing argument against it.
City officials said two or three people had called the city to find out if it allowed medical marijuana or expressed interest in opening businesses.
Commissioner Tom Gilmer said he thought Otsego was too small to take on extra administration and policing responsibilities that would be needed.
“I think our police department is plenty busy and it’s just not something we’re equipped to deal with,” he said.
Because banks refused to deal with marijuana businesses because of federal regulations the businesses have to deal in cash.
Gilmer said that led to crime.
“Unfortunately they become targets for people looking to steal that cash,” he said.
Breedveld pointed out that plenty of people still dealt in cash because they didn’t like or trust banks.
Gilmer responded, “But I don’t know who those people are. They’re here and there in the community.
“In this case, everyone would know.”
Breedveld said, “The only thing we hear about is the bad stuff. It’s like the news, there’ll be six hours of bad stuff and 10 minutes of good.”
Commissioner Jim Misner said the city could change its mind later.
“By opting out, we aren’t saying ‘No, never,’ we’re saying ‘Not now,’” he said.
Commissioner Stacey Withee said, “I don’t want to be a test case on this, especially when there is another system in place for people who need to get it.”
The state’s own regulation system created by the law was only recently released and hadn’t really been used yet, she said, which would probably mean the city would have to amend any ordinance it wrote now, possibly several times.
Breedveld said that was fairly common.
“We rewrite ordinances and deal with the state changing things all the time,” he said.
Gilmer said he’d prefer to wait, including to see what happened with a possible referendum to allow recreational use of marijuana in Michigan which organizers are seeking to place on the November ballot.
“I’m personally not in favor of recreational marijuana,” he said, “It might surprise people who think of me as pretty liberal on a lot of things, but I don’t.
“I think medicinal use is something different.”
Contact Dan Pepper at dpepper@allegannews.com or at (269) 673-5534.


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