BY MATT MACKINDER
Clarkston News Staff Writer
Would a cannabis business work in Independence Township? Two area women think so, presenting the idea to the Board of Trustees on Aug. 20.
The Township Board approved and adopted a zoning ordinance amendment prohibiting marijuana establishments in the township earlier this year. But emergency administrative rules for implementing the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act approved by the state last month might change things, said cannabis advocate Lauren Pierce during public comment.
“Whether you agree or whatever your thoughts are regarding cannabis, personally, politically, or religiously, I think we can all agree that cat’s out of the bag and it’s not going back in,” Pierce said.
“Southeast Michigan voted overwhelmingly in support of Proposal 1 (legalizing recreational use and possession of marijuana for persons 21 years of age or older), and knowing that’s the current climate, knowing there are quickly approaching timelines for business license applications, and also knowing neighboring townships in Lapeer, Lake Orion and Walled Lake are opting in, I think this is a critical moment where we need to decide if we want to have a piece of that revenue and the job opportunities there.”
Pierce noted jobs could also come in the form of packaging suppliers, distributors, marketing, and legal representation.
“There’s huge opportunity,” Pierce said. “We can regulate this responsibly, smartly, but also be a part of what’s happening in Michigan and the next steps in order to support this in a way that can bring revenue to our township.”
Erika Arms, a board-certified naturopath doctor and licensed spiritual healer with Journey To Health Chakra of Clarkston, also spoke at the meeting in support of the potential business.
“I was here in December, for the same proposal to talk about it,” Arms said. “I’m not a recreational-use fan of the substance. However, I do see the medicinal benefits in my office.”
Many people come to her office who use marijuana because they’re in pain, their child’s having seizures, they have cancer, and other health reasons, she said.
“I don’t want Clarkston to be Amsterdam, but I think it’s something that we need to consider with the alcohol licenses that we give out in the township – personally, I think alcohol is much more dangerous than a plant,” she said. “I would really like us to consider even if it’s a number of licenses that we’re going to allow, whether it be 2-5, to have some good businesses, small business, because that’s what I am in the community – believe me, I get nurses, I get all kinds of people in my office who will admit that they are users. So maybe we can throw that judgment out the window.”
Independence Township Supervisor Pat Kittle said he still struggles with the notion of marijuana dispensaries in the township.
“I have concerns about this, ” Kittle said. “Banks cannot legally deal with dispensaries as it is still a federal crime. And the amount of cash these businesses have in their possession, they have been robbed at gunpoint. The whole thing creeps me out, to be honest with you. How are we measuring the toxicity levels people have in their bodies and the THC levels? What happens if people get hurt while they are on the drug? I’ve talked to colleagues and people from schools and churches, and none of them want this in their backyard. Until the FDA approves this and says smoking dope is the greatest thing since canned beer, I have a real problem with it.”
The state emergency rules, issued by the Marijuana Regulatory Agency and signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, will remain in effect for six months, with one six-month extention possible. The rules provide information needed by local municipalities and prospective licensees to decide how to participate in the new industry, ensure a fair and efficient regulatory structure for Michigan businesses, and access to safety-tested marijuana for Michigan’s citizens and visitors, said MRA Executive Director Andrew Brisbo.
“Since we plan to start taking business applications Nov. 1, stakeholders will have four months to evaluate these rules and make their decisions,” Brisbo said. “These rules set Michigan’s marijuana industry on a path for success while ensuring safety for marijuana consumers.”