City officials consider new medical marijuana possibilities

Citing economic growth opportunities and the ability to regulate a budding industry, city officials are researching new options for regulating the manufacturing, distribution and delivery of medical marijuana. 

The Mount Pleasant city and planning commissions met for a special meeting prior to the City Commission’s regular meeting Monday to deliberate on how the city should handle new laws regulating marijuana facilities.

In December 2016, Gov. Rick Snyder signed a series of bills clarifying the types of medical marijuana facilities allowed under Michigan law. The "Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act" will create a licensing program for medical marijuana similar to how the state regulates alcohol.

Attorney Nicholas Curcio gave a presentation to members of the city and planning commissions about the impact of the new laws.

The new act allows municipalities to adopt ordinances allowing for five categories of medical marijuana production and growing facilities. Applications will be accepted starting Dec. 15.

The city can choose to allow:

  • Growing facilities that would cultivate and process marijuana for sale. The city could authorize three designations including Class A would allow cultivation of up to 1,500 plants, Class B would allow cultivation of up to 1,000 plants or Class C would allow cultivation of up to 500 plants
  • Processors that create “infused products” such as edibles
  • Dispensaries that would buy marijuana from growers and supply the product to patients.
  • Transportation services that would take marijuana to authorized facilities 
  • Facilities to monitor cannabis for contaminants and other substances

Commissioners would have several ways to “mitigate the impact” of opting in. The commission could require a fee of up to $5,000 for each facility, require indoor growing and provide resources to prevent theft. The city also could export the cannabis to other areas in the state.

“This sounds like one big mess,” Planning Commissioner William Daley said. “Why would we want to get in this – isn’t this bigger than us?”

There’s good reason for Mount Pleasant to opt in according to Commissioner Tony Kulick – a citizens initiative could force the commission to adopt policies with no input. In 2014, an amendment to a city ordinance was approved by voters that decriminalized the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana.

Commissioner Nicholas Madaj said he was concerned about the extent of local control. The commission agreed to create a task force to research the changes in state law.

“I don’t want to approach this as establishing more regulations when there might be state rules that affect (it),” he said.

Commissioner Lori Gillis said opting in could provide economic benefits to increase the city’s tax base and bring employment to the area. Gillis said she believes marijuana provides medical benefits and is safer than many prescription drugs.

“I always look at it as literally a weed – it is an herbal supplement,” Gillis said. “I think our municipality should look at this with open eyes, being that we have state legislation that made medical marijuana legal. We also have city residents that voted to make (possession of) a small portion of recreational marijuana legal.”

Daley said the city should proceed carefully.

“This seems like such a quagmire of rules and regulations,” he said. “I caution us not to go in too much and too quickly.”

Public Comment

Multiple residents spoke in favor of opting in to the new rules.

Attorney Todd Levitt encouraged commissioners to allow for multiple dispensaries and acknowledge them as "reputable, compassionate businesses."

“Not only will this bring in businessmen and woman but there will be other businesses that grow out of it,” Levitt said.

He said the state would impose regulations on the dispensaries and only people with a medical marijuana cards would be able to purchase from the facilities. 

“You don’t have to worry about 10,000 Central Michigan students flocking to the stores on Welcome Weekend," Levitt said.

County Commissioner Jim Horton, a licensed pharmacist, said he was concerned about losing funding by going against federal law. Horton said he believes marijuana has “certain effects” that could aid nausea in chemotherapy patients and has shown positive effects for people with multiple sclerosis.

“One of the things I’m concerned with, when looking at a drug, is can you control it?” he said. “(We have to) get specific types and strains and make it pure. Let’s not have 'Jim’s Blend No. 1' or 'Tom’s Blend No. 3' and claim that (each one) helps with multiple sclerosis.”