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No official decision regarding medical marijuana dispensary

 

Cortney Ofstad/Daily Globe

BESSEMER RESIDENTS listen to comments during a public hearing by the Bessemer City Council to reconsider a special use permit for a medical marijuana dispensary Monday.

BESSEMER - More than 30 residents attended a public hearing for the Bessemer City Council to reconsider a special use permit for a medical marijuana dispensary Monday.

On Dec. 2, a special use permit was granted to applicant Richard Duncan, of Ironwood, to have the marijuana dispensary on a 3-2 vote.

According to a press release from city manager Michael Uskiewicz, Duncanson's application was made under an April 2011 city ordinance that "specifically outlined security requirements to operate such a business in the city of Bessemer."

However, it was found the Dec. 2 hearing was not properly posted and a new hearing was held Monday.

The council will make an official decision on the dispensary during its next meeting, Feb. 17 at 5 p.m.

Many residents spoke out against the dispensary, and even cited a Michigan law making marijuana dispensaries illegal.

Attorney Mark McDonald spoke on how the council was "not even following your own ordinance," by having the meeting.

According to McDonald, the 2011 ordinance says the city's planning commission has to make a recommendation to the city council before a public hearing could be held.

"This is the third time I have addressed this council and this is the third time I am going to tell you, you continue not to follow your own ordinance," McDonald said. "You are skipping the planning commission, and you have no legal authority to do so."

McDonald also said the council continues to "keep blaming the planning commission for the problem, but the real problem is your city manager." He pointed out Uskiewicz was not present at the hearing and wondered where he was.

McDonald continued to point out flaws with the application, including the fact the applicant and the owner of the business were not the same person, the council did not receive a letter of compliance from the owner and the application states its in the industrial-zoned district, but there are five residences within a half a mile of the proposed location.

Different law enforcement agencies also spoke out against the dispensary, commenting that medical marijuana is "very hard to regulate and keep under control."

"Within Michigan law, it is his (Duncanson's) right," Gogebic County Sheriff Pete Matonich said. "However, it's seems the city is in obvious violation of it's ordinance."

Lt. Donald Horn, of the Michigan State Police Wakefield Post, echoed many of Matonich's comments against the dispensary, saying the department sees the abuse of drugs.

"Medical marijuana was intended for chronic illness, those near death's door," Horn said. "Yet, less than 1 percent of those have signed up for medical marijuana. I have pages and pages on medical marijuana, and if it's the law and legal, we will abide by it, but we will uphold that law as well."

Duncanson spoke in defense of the dispensary, saying it was to "help sick people," and for people to have "compassion for those who actually need it." He also said he has the "utmost respect for law enforcement and the community," and doesn't want "unsavory people" in the community either.

John Frello also spoke in defense of the dispensary.

"He (Duncanson) should not be penalized for potential law breakers," Frello said. "Everyone is expecting people to all come to Bessemer to get their pot, and sit on the sidewalks smoking and singing Janis Joplin songs. That isn't feasible, so what are we afraid of?"

However, other speakers disagreed.

"I have lived in the city limits of Bessemer for 50 years," David Carpenedo, said. "Just because the rest of the U.S. is going to pot, doesn't mean the city of Bessemer needs to go to pot."

Written comments on the dispensary are being accepted by the council and can be submitted to the city clerk's office.