Community members express opinions about medical marijuana facilities in public hearing


Community members wait before the public hearing at 6:30 p.m., May 29 in Mount Pleasant City Hall.

Mount Pleasant community members voiced their opinions to the City Commission about the city opting in to the state law allowing medical marijuana facilities during a public hearing at 6:30 p.m., May 29 in City Hall.

The hearing was held to give the community the chance to express their opinions and concerns about the draft ordinances regarding the Michigan Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act. In other words, the ordinances are the rules and regulations that must to be followed by anyone who wishes to operate a facility in Mount Pleasant. 

The ordinances state that all types of facilities would be permitted in the city's industrial and commercial zones within designated areas, including portions of downtown Mount Pleasant, as well as Mission and Pickard St. 

A facility would not be permitted to be within 1,000 feet of a public or private K-12 school. It would also not be permitted to be within 500 feet of Central Michigan University, unless it is located east of the main campus and east of Mission St.

However, the Planning Commission recommended that the downtown area north of Broadway St. within the Central Business Tax Increment Financing Authority District be excluded from the buffer zone. Many residents expressed concern about the buffer zone, particularly the area north of Broad St. being excluded, because it is roughly 360 feet from Sacred Heart Academy. 

Mount Pleasant resident Nancy Olivieri asked the commissioners to reconsider the exemption from the buffer, because she was worried about the negative impacts it could potentially have on the students.

"It is important that children grow up without drugs being handed to them," Olivieri said. 

On the other side of the issue, many residents supported this exemption and even asked for the buffer zone to be decreased so the facilities would be more easily accessible. Resident Jim Morino told the commissioners the buffer zone was "unfair to people who need medicine" and are having a difficult time accessing it.

Morino also pointed out that there are several bars that serve alcohol within the buffer zone, including the Bird Bar & Grill, the Brass Cafe, Marty's Bar, Blue Gator Sports Pub and Grill and Encore, The Nightclub. Morino, among other community members, also mentioned that there is a Rite Aid drugstore within the buffer zone, which provides medicine, including opioids. 

The ordinances state that all five types of medical marijuana facilities would be allowed: growers, provisioning centers, processors, secure transporters and safety compliance. No more than three of each type would be allowed, and if more than three potentials candidates apply for a specific type of facility, a public meeting would be held to randomly select three applicants.

Several community members expressed concern about this lottery system, because if the city does opt in, it is likely that more than three facilities will apply. They asked the commissioners to rethink the random selection to ensure that each facility is being carefully evaluated and considered before being approved. 

Mayor Allison Quast Lents thanked the community members for attending and providing their input, saying that the City Commission would "stew over those comments" before reaching a final decision.

The City Commission will hold a work session at 6:30 p.m. on June 4 to discuss the feedback from the public hearing and the steps they wish to take next.