MARQUETTE, Mich — Sensible cannabis commercialization in the City of Marquette passed this evening with 4 – 3 vote.

The ordinance was opposed by Commissioner Campana — who claims it’s addictive and needs more buffer-zones, and Commissioner Frazier — who claims it causes cancer and expressed concerns about odor. Mayor Stonehouse also opposed the ordiance due to limited buffer-zones.

Five hundred feet buffer zones will be established, keeping facilities at distance from schools, religious institutions, substance abuse treatment facilities, and from each other. Mayor Pro-Tem Reynolds proposed the ammended motion and led the discussion with support from Commissioners Hill, Smith, and Schloegel. 

The state of Michigan will begin to accept licenses this November and establishments can exist in the city as early as March.

Commission can amend the ordinance at any time, but are scheduled to revisit it in 2021 during my hopeful term. 

My Position

I support this measure, and we now need to regulate. If elected, I would propose one-time establishment fees and ask the citizens of Marquette to consider a ballot measure for an additional local cannabis tax. The vote — similar to a millage process — would be for municipal revenue from sales to fund education and enforcement. Any excess should be allocated toward infrastructure improvements to residential streets.

I look forward to the opportunity to be able to continuously evaluate the ordinance hopefully with the implementation of a Cannabis Advisory Board and possibly a revision of current buffer zones. 

Now we must work to make cannabis commercialization fit and benefit Marquette.

As of midnight Dec. 6, 2018, Michigan residents can consume cannabis in private. The state took one year to develop rules commercially and will accept the first business license applications in November 2019. It gaves the City of Marquette – Municipal Government a finite amount of time to decide what to do locally.

For the benefits of our economy, I supported a local tax, licensing, regulations, and would cautiously but enthusiastically welcome the new commercial businesses to operate in our budding micropolis.

At least three city commissions disagree.

Anyone within state boundaries over the age of 21 may consume it privately and possess it without penalty.

About 63% of citizens in the city of Marquette voted to pass Proposal 1. It’s a clear majority, but we also need to consider the one third of citizens here who voted in opposition, and work on pacifying fears, assurance and education.

The full positive effects of future commercialization in the city was threatened with misinformation. Municipalities across the state have banned the business of commercially selling the product in city limits, and a few local policy makers have expressed either opposition to Proposal 1, or a similar desire to ban businesses. It was a passionate contentious debate in city of Marquette, and all perspectives were valued.

Banning businesses in the city will have harmful consequences and contribute to a less safe black market. It also depletes funds–a possible local tax–which could go towards enforcing the law and ensuring its safety. Regardless of how any city official personally voted on Proposal 1, the citizen initiative of decriminalization needed responsible municipal reaction. Banning commercialization creates burden on law enforcement without the generation of city tax dollars behind them to enforce new laws.

Business banishment does not decrease the presence of cannabis in the city, it creates bureaucratic burden on citizens. It shifts the benefits of–not the possession of–cannabis to other municipalities. We risked rejecting a capitalistic market trend. In the history of cottage based local economics, this has never been a beneficial outcome. If there’s a demand, consumers and sellers will find a way to exchange. Making those transactions illegal is futile.

Last year state legislators attempted to use the end of the year Lame Duck session to diffuse the potency of legalization’s tax benefits across the state, and proposed bills that would take funding away from schools and roads.

This is more than disrespectful to the voters, it’s disrespectful to the process and counterintuitive to a productive economy. It risked lowering the tax rate from 10 percent to three percent, and cut out Michigan’s schools and roads from receiving tax revenue from legal cannabis.

Here are full details of what can and cannot be done under the new law.

The proposal began early 2018 when the State Board of Canvassers ruled that a group pushing a proposal to legalize marijuana for recreational use got enough signatures to qualify for the ballot November ’18.

Local officials across the state began to decide if they wanted recreational commercial cannabis businesses in their communities after the state started giving out medical licenses lasy year. Communities in the Upper Peninsula jumped to the opportunity.

Marquette did not.

Cities should have been preparing for state legalization. Police departments need to be equipped proactively for detecting impaired driving and a change in enforcement.

Even those who do not regularly use cannabis–or those to whom the plant does not personally appeal–have understood its benefits. Advocates for legalization have reasons beyond personal benefit. This is about the positive things it can do to our city and our state. It’s about economics. It’s about the voice of the people. It’s about freedom.

According the TIME Money, money brought in by Colorado’s booming, legal cannabis industry is now being used to help homeless citizens, address mental health and end the state’s opioid epidemic.

Colorado’s $105 million in tax revenue from cannabis sales the year will go toward the “Marijuana Tax Cash Fund,” which helps create housing programs, aid mental health programs in jails and contribute to health programs at local middle schools.

Similar legislation in Michigan was intended to help schools.

Michigan also needs to consider expunging the convictions of cannabis possessions prior to decriminalization. It’s fair, and would alleviate significant burden on our criminal justice system. Tax dollars should no longer be wasted on cannabis related offenses.

Unless we are prepared to bring back Prohibition and ask citizens to stop unwinding with a glass of red wine at night, it ought not be anyone’s authority to say adults 21+ cannot responsibly enjoy cannabis, too. To benefit from the outcome of last November’s vote, the city needs to have our ducks in a row.

I support decriminalization, taxing, and regulating recreational cannabis in Marquette. Taxes and licensing will make the city safer and help pay for new technology enabling our police department to detect impaired driving, and our fire department to inspect grow facilities.

With a few responsible caveats, I’m with the 70% of Americans who support legalization, and the whopping 80% of local people polled  who say they would support marijuana businesses in our city.

The Michigan cannabis ballot proposal:

  • Legalized the possession and sale of up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis for personal, recreational use.
  • Imposed a 10% excise tax on cannabis sales at the retail level as well as a 6% sales tax. The estimated revenues from the taxes are at least $100 million.
  • Split those revenues with 35% going to K-12 education, 35% to roads, 15% to the communities that allow cannabis businesses in their borders and 15% to counties where marijuana business are located.
  • Allowed communities to decide whether they’ll permit cannabis businesses.
  • Restricted purchases of cannabis for recreational purposes to 2.5 ounces but an individual could keep up to 10 ounces of marijuana at home.
  • Allow the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), and not the politically appointed licensing board that will regulate the medical cannabis side of the market, to regulate and license businesses, ranging from growers, transporters, testers and dispensaries.
  • Set up three classes of cannabis growers: up to 100, 500 and 2,000 plants.

Do this surgically and responsibly just like we regulate alcohol, and there’s no reason Marquette couldn’t benefit from this industry. Studies show cannabis significantly reduces opioid use and decreases prescription pill overdoses.

Posted by The Mining Journal on Friday, April 27, 2018