The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Marenisco opens doors to marijuana enterprise


June 18, 2019

P.J. Glisson/Daily Globe

MEMBERS OF the Marenisco Township board react at their Monday evening meeting, during which members voted, 3-2, to pass a "Marijuana Facilities Ordinance" that would allow the township to regulate the establishment of marijuana enterprise in accordance with its own terms and as-yet undetermined state licensing. From left are township supervisor Richard Bouvette, treasurer Diane Dean, and trustee Kelly Dunbar. Dean and Dunbar voted no.


Marenisco - Members of the Marenisco Township board voted 3-2 Monday evening to pass a Marijuana Facilities Ordinance that includes terms in which marijuana enterprise can operate within township boundaries.

Ordinance No. 06172019, which is unprecedented in Gogebic County, will require any such entrepreneurs to meet the qualifications for state licensing, which have yet to be determined in Michigan.

The action follows last year's vote by citizens to legalize recreational marijuana throughout the state, making it the tenth state in the nation to do so.

At Monday's meeting, supervisor Richard Bouvette, clerk Donna Kenney and trustee Dave Hagen voted for the ordinance.

Kelly Dunbar, who voted no, told the Daily Globe later, "I'm not opposed to it." He said he's just concerned that a thumbs up from the township might make it more tempting for the state to require marijuana enterprise even if township citizens vote against it.

Township attorney Jim Bucknell has explained more than once that, if too many towns and townships opt out of marijuana enterprise, the state will dictate in what areas it must be allowed, so as to allow consumers to purchase it without having to drive long distances.

Treasurer Diane Dean, who also voted no Monday, told the Daily Globe she hopes the public now will exercise its right to petition for a vote on the matter. "I'm not for marijuana, period," she said. "I hope it will be voted down."

The new ordinance takes effect 30 days after publication, although board members agreed with Bouvette's suggestion to delay acceptance of applications until Aug. 1. The supervisor said time is needed to prepare applications and publish the details.

Even then, he warned, state licensing would be required before any applications are cleared, and related state rulings are still in limbo, although Bouvette said he believes the state may issue its own terms fairly soon.

One type of business that is not included within the ordinance, which was revised since an April 13 public hearing, is a smokehouse.

Local concern expressed then was enough to eliminate smokehouses, which are like taverns except that people gather to use marijuana instead of to drink alcohol.

The new ordinance does allow for nine growers, three each in three classes, within agricultural zoning divisions. They also can exist in industrial areas if they operate within enclosed structures.

Three independent processors also may exist, in addition to growers, who may operate in the dual role of growing and processing. However, the total number of processors is capped at 12.

In addition, the ordinance allows for three public retail sale locations, to be located only in the commercial zoning district.

Three each of transporters, microbusinesses and safety compliance facilities may exist in any zoning district except residential.

Various fees that may involve thousands of dollars depend on the type of business and whether it is just starting

Bucknell, who wrote the ordinance, reminded the group that recreational marijuana now is open to grow and use in limited quantities.

He said at last month's hearing that an advantage of recreational marijuana being legalized and commercialized is that it then is subjected to state-regulated testing, inspecting and rating.

Bouvette also said then that marijuana enterprise presents an opportunity for the township to collect related fees and percentages of profits and to welcome well-paying related jobs.

After the meeting, Marenisco Township Police Chief Bruce Mahler said he believes state voters will regret the consequences of legalizing marijuana, which he said may increase insurance rates, encourage black markets, and add to area instability.

"I spent my entire career working against this, but the people have spoken," he said, adding that no matter what happens, he will be in charge of regulation.

The board will meet next on July 15 at 6 p.m. in the township hall. The public is welcome.


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