January 03, 2018ALMONT — With the State of Michigan's deadline nearing, the Almont Village Council recently voted 4-3 to "opt in" to the terms of Michigan's Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act (MMFL).
Voting in favor were Council President Steve Schneider and council members Gary Peltier, Steven Schneider and Dave Love.
Dissenting votes were cast by council members Tim Dyke, Melinda Steffler and 'Wez' Ligon.
Council President Steve Schneider said opting in provides the village with the opportunity to license and regulate marijuana growers, processors, dispensaries, testing facilities and transporters should it wish to in the future.
Municipalities and townships that voted to "opt out" or not participate will not have that opportunity.
The MMFL Act was passed by the Michigan Legislature in September 2016 and later signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder.
Michigan municipalities and townships wanting to "opt in" had to do so by the Dec. 15, 2017 deadline.
Almont Village Clerk-Treasurer Kim Keesler said dissenting members expressed a desire to gauge the community's support for medical marijuana growers, processors and related facilities within the village limits.
"I believe they felt a need to do more research on the issue," said Keesler. "The federal government still considers marijuana to be illegal.
Keesler noted that research suggests there are benefits to patients using marijuana for medicinal purposes, however there remains those who oppose using the drug for recreational purposes.
Keesler said some supporters of the MMFL Act view marijuana as a potential cash crop for farmers and growers.
Peltier, who voted to opt in, said the village would exercise common sense and due diligence related to marijuana-related facilities or businesses.
"We would take every precaution to protect our community," he said. "We certainly would not allow any facilities near our schools or churches."
He noted that 63 percent of Michigan voters approved the use of medical marijuana in 2008.
Meanwhile, the council has formed a committee consisting of Steffler and Steve and Steven Schneider to survey village residents and assess the community's support or opposition to implementation of the MMFL Act.
Steffler shared her reasons for casting a no vote and for suggesting that a committee be formed.
"I felt that we did not yet have adequate information to make a good decision," she said. "While I'm open to considering each of the five types of facilities based upon their appropriateness in our community, I was willing to wait until the state regulations were finalized and to see how other communities dealt with the new rules.
"I thought it was important to hear the opinions or concerns of our residents prior to making a final decision, which is why I proposed a community survey," Steffler continued. "Currently, it's still in the drafting phase, but I would encourage village members to fill out a survey once it is complete."
Steffler pointed out that while Almont did "opt in," the village does not yet have ordinances or other framework set up for any type of medical marijuana in the village limits.
"This is what we will be discussing in future council meetings in 2018," said Steffler.
While Almont Village Council members narrowly agreed to opt in for the MMFL provisions, Almont Township Board members voted unanimously to opt out.
Efforts to legalize
In late November, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted more than 360,000 signatures to Michigan's Secretary of State.
The Coalition's goal is to get the state to legalize, regulate and tax recreational marijuana similarly to alcohol.
Under the terms of the request, marijuana use would be allowed for adults 21 and over, but could not be consumed in public places or while driving.
Should the measure move forward, it would be placed on the Nov. 6, 2018 ballot.
Tom Wearing started at the Tri-City Times in 1989, covering the Village of Capac as a beat reporter. He later served stints as assistant editor and editor. Today, he covers Imlay City and Almont as a staff writer. He enjoys music and plays drums and sings with various musical groups in the Detroit Metropolitan area.