Advocates make case for medical marijuana in Bessemer


Richard Jenkins/Daily Globe

CHANDRALL PORTELL talks about the benefits of expanding commercial medical marijuana facilities on the Gogebic Range at an informational session held at the Bessemer City Hall Saturday.

BESSEMER - Medical marijuana advocates made the case for supporting the industry in the Gogebic Range at an informational event, held Saturday at the Bessemer City Hall.

Beginning with an informal tour of several information stations organizers had set up throughout the building's auditorium, the event then featured two local advocates - Chandra Portell and Willie Dufour - explaining the potential benefits to the area.

In addition to the medical benefits the speakers said marijuana offered patients, they said the community benefits from an increase in jobs and revenue - as well as a reduction in crime they said is associated with the end of prohibition on marijuana.

While caregivers and patients are still limited to growing no more than 72 plants, recent changes to Michigan's law expanded the commercial possibilities available in the state. The new law lets growers grow as many as 1,500 plants and creates several types of jobs - including as a grower, processor, transporter, dispensary and testing facility - of which, an individual and their immediate family can only be licensed in one category, according to Portell.

Dufour cited a recent study projecting the revenue the state could generate from expanding the availability of medical marijuana.

"The industry (in Michigan) would generate more than $44.3 million a year, based on patient population - that's based on current patient populations in 2015," Dufour said. He added $29 million in sales tax alone is projected, with 30 percent expected to go toward local municipalities and the rest being split between the county and state.

Dufour argued patient populations have increased in other states as purchasing options expand, meaning the revenue generated in Michigan would also likely be more than projected.

Portell argued expanding commercial medical marijuana would also produce much needed jobs for area residents, saying she knows several people who are moving to the area from other states because of the opportunities here.

"We can't wait for the mines anymore, we can't for a casino. We can't wait anymore. With all the research out there, it just makes the most sense," she told the Daily Globe after the meeting.

Following their presentations, Portell opened the floor to questions from the audience, with most of those speaking in support of medical marijuana in the area.

Jack Seabloom, a Wakefield resident, said he knew of places in Colorado where the communities were transformed from relying on part-time tourists for its economy to having a year-round economy because of marijuana.

Not everyone was on board though. Jerry Edde, a Bessemer resident, expressed concern that medical marijuana was simply a step toward recreational marijuana legalization.

Portell told the Daily Globe prior to the event she had hoped to have someone opposed to the medical marijuana industry at the event, but had been unable to find any participants.

Following the event, organizers raffled off several prizes, including two Ducks Unlimited prints.


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