Marenisco hearing addresses recreational marijuana enterprise


May 14, 2019

P.J. Glisson/Daily Globe

AT A MONDAY evening hearing on a proposed ordinance in relation to recreational marijuana facilities, Marenisco Township supervisor Richard Bouvette addresses the crowd, which filled the community room of the Marenisco Township Hall.


Marenisco - Close to 100 people filled the community room of the Marenisco Town Hall for a Monday evening public hearing on a proposed marijuana ordinance that would allow recreational marijuana enterprise.

"There will be no catcalls," said Marenisco supervisor Richard Bouvette while opening the floor to questions and comments.

Although the hearing allowed the public to vent its concerns, Bouvette said members of the township board then would be the ones to vote for or against the ordinance.

"The township board may not institute an election according to its own interest," said Bouvette regarding its earlier speculation that it could do just that. "As far as I'm concerned, this would have been the easiest thing to do."

Instead, he explained, state law dictates that if the public does not like the board's vote, "You have the right to petition, and then it would go to ballot."

Township attorney Jim Bucknell, who wrote the ordinance, reminded the group that recreational marijuana now is open to grow and use in limited quantities after citizens voted last fall to legalize recreational marijuana.

Bucknell said his ordinance specifically addresses the larger, commercial aspect of growing and selling marijuana in recreational forms, which now includes edibles.

He added that an advantage of recreational marijuana being legalized and commercialized is that it then is subjected to state-regulated testing, inspecting and rating.

The ordinance authorizes within the township three growers each in three classes of A, B and C levels, respectively, along with three independent processors. It also authorizes the following:

-Three provisioning centers or public retail sales locations that would be authorized to conduct business;

-Three smokers' clubs that would not be allowed to sell alcohol and that would be open only to persons 21 or older;

-Three "micro-businesses" that would be allowed to grow in small quantities and process on the same property;

-Three safety compliance facilities; and

-Three secure transporters.

The ordinance notes that each of those entities would be subject to regulations designed specifically for them.

Moreover, provisioning centers, retail centers, and smokers' clubs would be restricted to a designated commercial area, whereas growers would be designated to agricultural areas.

Micro-businesses could exist in any zoning division except residential and lakefront.

Several Marenisco residents raised concerns during the hearing.

Teresa Ingham asked whether the now abandoned land of the Ojibway Correctional Facility would be useful for such operations, but Bouvette said it is likely too big, with structures unsuitable to marijuana operations.

Other residents asked about the proximity to Wisconsin, which has not yet legalized recreational marijuana, and Bucknell said anyone who buys marijuana here legally and sells it across the state line will endanger nobody here since the illegality will apply only in the other state.

Residents also questioned Bouvette's objectivity since he has leaned to supporting marijuana operations in the past.

"Yeah, I've got a conflict of interest, just like the other 80-some people in here," said Bouvette. "You've all got your interests."

He added, however, that the ordinance presents genuine opportunity for the township, which will be able to collect related fees and percentages of profits. Such business also will result in well-paying jobs.

Regarding whether there would be any interest in setting up such facilities, Bouvette also said, "I can guarantee you that people will apply. We've already been approached. There are people who have approached me who are willing to invest millions."

He added of applicants, "If it does work, we'll get in on the ground floor. We'll have the pick of the litter."

Bucknell also quelled concerns about bad seeds setting up shop by saying, "Criminals aren't going to get licenses." He said the state will not issue licenses to anyone who isn't "squeaky clean."

Bouvette also suggested that concerns about odors or accessibility likely wouldn't be an issue since persons investing in such operations likely would protect their products within enclosed buildings.

"It seems to me the township is just being proactive," said one female resident who asked not to be identified. "Let's get on the bandwagon if there's money to be made."

After the hearing, Bouvette told the Globe that he thought the evening went well, with the crowd showing "good behavior."

Although the township board will meet on May 20, he doesn't expect members to vote on the issue until at least June.

Bucknell said he expects the public to petition for an election no matter how the board votes.


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