City commission discusses marijuana ordinances, revisits Broadway Central decision
Mount Pleasant City Commission led several public hearings, including a hearing for the proposed reciprocity plan for local marijuana dispensaries at its April 11 meeting.
Reciprocity would allow for all five local dispensary retail stores to have the ability to distribute both medical and recreational marijuana with proper licensing. Mount Pleasant has three dispensaries that offer recreational marijuana — JARS Cannabis and two Lume Cannabis locations.
Reciprocity plan received community feedback
Mayor Amy Perschbacher began discussion by asking all those in attendance who were pro-reciprocity to stand and raise their hand. Twenty four people threw their hands up in response. Only one person stood against the plan.
“Consano is in dire straits,” Micah Focken, general manager of Consano, said. “Medical home facilities do not survive in recreational municipalities very easily.”
Consano is a local, medical marijuana dispensary that has publicly spoken out to the city commission that it needs recreational licensing to keep up with other dispensaries in town.
Consano may be out of business by May if a decision is not reached by the commission immediately, Focken said.
“Currently there are five retail establishments and having the ability for both medical and adult will provide consumers choices,” Focken said. “Hopefully this will prevent any illegal distribution of a product that is untested and unregulated.”
Alex Ludwiczak, a Consano employee, also shared his worries for the future of the business and the future of Mount Pleasant's cannabis industry.
“Consano is not failing because of the products we offer. Consano is not failing because of the prices we offer those products at. Consano is not failing due to a lack of demand,” Ludwiczak said. “We’re not failing... we’re being choked out.”
"If some day Consano closes its doors having never seen a recreational license the one thing I would like to be perfectly clear is that we have not failed, the system has failed us," Ludwiczak said.
Gerald Griffin, resident of Mount Pleasant and president of GMG Public Affairs Consulting, suggested an alternative to reciprocity. Griffin is not opposed to the idea, but fears legal issues will result for awarding recreational licenses to existing businesses without a competitive process.
Under Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act (MRTMA) a municipality may limit the number of marijuana establishment licenses. However, if the municipality chooses to do this then the “the municipality shall decide among competing applications by a competitive process intended to select applicants who are best suited to operate in compliance with (MRTMA) within the municipality.”
Griffin instead recommends removing the cap on the number of licenses altogether.
“If you seem to think that there's going to be 15 or 20 dispensaries, this is not going to be the case. It's a business just like anything else,” Griffin said. “We’re going to look at the market to see if it would support it. There's not 10 McDonald's here in Mount Pleasant and there's a lot more customers for McDonald's than there are for marijuana.”
When the discussion came back to the commission, it saw a backpedal from the reciprocity plan.
“My recommendation of this item is to not move forward with reciprocity,” City Manager Aaron Desentz said. “This recommendation is because of the legal risk and because of that possibility we can find ourselves in court continuing to fight a number of court cases.”
Commissioner Maureen Eke motioned that the commission wait to vote so the planning commission can have time to create a new plan involving the removal of the cap on licensing.
The motion was carried and the vote was postponed.
“If I am hearing this correctly, I’m assuming (City Planner) Jacob (Kain) would have done the research instead of dragging our feet yet again,” Focken said. “Consano will be closing, if you shelf (the decision). Consano will be closing.”
Broadway Central decision revisited
After receiving feedback from the community about their disapproval of the commission's decision to cancel Broadway Central, Commissioner Mary Alsager reopened discussion on their options.
Broadway Central was an initiative that closed a portion of Broadway Street to traffic as a response to COVID-19. For the past two years, Broadway Central provided a space for community members to gather and socially distance.
Despite opposing the street closure at first, Commissioner George Ronan voiced that he would not be opposed entirely as long as there is more activity.
“I don’t think the city staff coordinated it in a way it needed to be done,” Ronan said. “For two years we’ve done this and there were just no activities. You’d go there at night and it would just be sad.”
Eke agreed that activities could bring the space to life and build “a sense of community”.
Commissioner Elizabeth Busch did not like the idea of cutting the program entirely, and instead advocated that it should be improved.
“I’d also like to reach out to the community,” Ronan said. “I’m very excited. I was really thrilled to get those emails but let's take it a step further.”
Vice Mayor Olivia Cyman moved to request further information from city staff regarding possible events and working with local businesses.
The motion passed and will be discussed in more detail at a future meeting.