LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Vote 'no' on the citizen-initiated marijuana proposal


A student holds three-quarters of an ounce of cannabis Sept. 30 at Lexington Ridge Apartments. 

On Nov. 5 when Mount Pleasant residents go to the polls to elect two new City Commissioners, there will also be a citizen-initiated ballot proposal that would require the City to opt-in to the licensing of recreational (adult-use) marijuana businesses with very limited regulation. The purpose of this letter is to urge residents to vote NO on that ballot proposal. There are several reasons why I believe the ballot proposal is both unnecessary and unwise.

The reason the ballot proposal is unnecessary is because City Commission has already opted into the system by approving an ordinance that allows the establishment of most recreational marijuana businesses in Mount Pleasant. This ordinance has already taken effect and will remain in effect as written if the ballot proposal fails.

While there are many reasons that I believe the City approved ordinance is superior to the ballot proposal, I would like to focus on the three I believe are the most critical. 

The City-approved ordinance maintains the state requirement of a minimum buffer distance of 1,000 feet from K-12 schools. The ballot proposal does not recognize that buffer zone and merely says that recreational marijuana businesses cannot be adjacent to K-12 schools.

The City-approved ordinance also assures public input on specific locations by requiring marijuana establishments to receive a special use permit from the Planning Commission, which includes a public hearing to address any problems that may be unique to a specific location. The ballot proposal prohibits such a requirement.

The City-approved ordinance would also allow changes in regulations as we learn more about how some of these businesses will impact the community. It allows the normal process of publishing proposed changes and requires holding a public hearing before approving changes with a majority vote of the City Commission. Unfortunately, the ballot proposal includes language that will make it extremely difficult to amend the ordinance. As with all citizen-initiated proposals, no changes could be made for two years. Even after that, no amendments could happen without unanimous approval by the City Commission and then approval by the public at an election that cannot occur for at least a year after the Commission vote. 

I believe that the more cautious approach taken by the City Commission reflects both the desire of the community to allow for the establishment of recreational marijuana businesses while at the same time protecting the public from potential negative consequences as we all learn how this new industry will impact our community. 

I would urge those who wish to know more about the specific differences between the City-approved ordinance and the ballot proposal to use this link: http://www.mt-pleasant.org/departments/division_of_community_services/planning_and_community_development/medical_marihuana.asp

I recommend a NO vote on the recreational marijuana ballot proposal.

Kathy Ling

Mount Pleasant City Commissioner