The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

City commission opts out on marijuana sales for six months


December 11, 2018

Ralph Ansami/Daily Globe

SAVANNAH CAMPBELL, a registered nurse, speaks against an Ironwood ordinance to prohibit marijuana sales establishments in the city Monday at a public hearing. She said the city needs the tax revenues marijuana shops would bring.


Ironwood - The Ironwood City Commission on Monday approved an ordinance to prohibit marijuana establishments in the city for six months, when the issue will be revisited.

"We'll do this again in six months," city commissioner Rick Semo said.

Recreational marijuana use was approved in Michigan in the November mid-term election by a 56-44 percent margin, but cities can opt out of allowing marijuana establishments and many have chosen to do so. Recreational pot use became legal last week, but it won't be available commercially for sale until around 2020.

In an initial vote on Monday, Jim Mildren and Joseph Cayer Jr. supported opting out of the marijuana licensing act, but Semo, Mayor Annette Burchell and Kim Corcoran voted no, with Semo saying he'd introduce a second ordinance option with a six-month sunset clause. That drew applause from the pro-marijuana audience.

The second vote with the six-month ordinance expiration date passed unanimously.

Commissioners took the action after a two-hour public hearing attended by about 100 people. Of 27 people who spoke, including at least four who don't live in Ironwood, 22 supported allowing marijuana establishments in the city and five were opposed.

In recommending the opt out option, city manager Scott Erickson said it is unclear when precisely the state will begin accepting applications for marijuana establishments. People in the audience said that would occur in about a year.

The pot proponents who spoke Monday said marijuana could be a big boost to Ironwood's struggling economy, especially given its border location.

Downtown Ironwood businessman Steve Lahti was among those encouraging the city commission to allow marijuana sales in the city.

'"We're losing businesses. We need help. We need more tax revenue," he said.

But Paul Porter said while support for marijuana was "close to 100 percent tonight," using the drug is "not moving in the direction of a sober and sane mind."

Two speakers said no one has ever died from marijuana, but Rick Estola, of Ironwood Township, citing a Daily Globe article, noted the man who is charged in a fatal traffic accident in Saxon, Wis., earlier this year had marijuana in his system. His passenger died in the crash with a logging truck.

Michael Cerbo, of Ironwood Township, said he now uses medical marijuana and it's allowed him to drop prescription drugs that can be deadly with overdoses.

After the public hearing, Ironwood Community Development Director Tom Bergman told the commission he believed the zoning ordinance in the city could be revised in six to nine months to reflect whatever future decision the commission might take on marijuana.

Mildren said he wants the commission to adopt good rules.

Corcoran said she backed the six-month sunset clause that wasn't in the original ordinance proposed by city manager Scott Erickson.

Semo's motion said the city staff will adopt a framework for action in that six-month period.

The city planning commission and city commission will have the time to hold more public hearings on city ordinances that would be needed to regulate and properly permit marijuana establishments, if the city commission chooses to take that direction.

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