April 11, 2018ALMONT — Almont Village Council members voted 5-2 on Tuesday, April 3, to rescind its earlier decision to "opt-in" to providing as many as five business opportunities allowable through Michigan's new Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act (MMFLA).
Last November, council members voted 4-3 to consider applications from entrepreneurs seeking to acquire licenses to own and operate any of the state-regulated medical marijuana facilities in the village.
Such operations can include medical marijuana "grow, testing, transportation and processing facilities and dispensaries."
Prior to Tuesday's vote, Village Manager Mike Connors unveiled the results of an 11-question survey designed to gauge residents' support for medical marijuana businesses operating within the village limits.
In his powerpoint presentation, Connors said 2,534 surveys had been mailed out to village residents and property owners between March 1-15, out of which 510 (less than 20 percent) responded to the anonymous survey.
Of that number, 488 of the survey responses were deemed valid, with 18 surveys being invalid and four others being duplicates.
Almont residents turn out for April 3rd village council meeting to express views on the Michigan Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act. photo by Tom Wearing.
In response to the most-telling question: Should the Village of Almont allow any of the five facilities under the MMFLA to operate, 313 (64.27%) residents said no, while 174 (35.27%) responded in favor.
Those percentages remained consistent when residents were asked specifically about their support for the five allowable facilities.
The results were: 67.83% opposed to medical marijuana grow facilities; 65.16% opposed to dispensaries; 67.63% opposed to transportation facilities; 66.32% opposed to testing facilities; and 66.94% opposed to processing facilities.
Opponents cited public safety, crime, odor, noise and impact on children among their biggest concerns.
Before voting, council members heard from several audience members, the large majority of whom expressed opposition.
Following public comment, each council member had an opportunity to express his/her position about whether to proceed with the MMFLA process, which would have required passing ordinances allowing for medical marijuana businesses to operate in the village.
Council President Steve Schneider, who had been a strong MMFLA proponent, admitted the final survey results suggested a "landslide" in opposition.
Schneider expressed disappointment that two local newspapers had printed preliminary survey results, which he felt may have discouraged some from responding.
"That may have skewed the final survey results," he said.
President Pro-Tem Tim Dyke, who voted "no" last November, said his initial opposition was due to a lack of specific data about the issue.
"The numbers speak for themselves," said Dyke. "There has only been a handful of people express their support (at meetings).
"The only 'pro' for me would be to provide better access for medical marijuana patients," he said. "The (extra tax) money we might raise is not an issue."
Council member Gary Peltier, who earlier voted in favor, pointed out that if Michigan residents pass a proposed ballot proposal to legalize recreational marijuana in November, the entire matter could become moot.
"We've watched and had moratoriums on this issue for 10 years," said Peltier. "I don't think waiting until November to see what happens is going to hurt."
Given the lopsided survey results and strong public expression in opposition to medical marijuana facilities at meetings, Schneider relented on his position.
"It's clear that the council is not going to pass an ordinance that would allow us to move forward at this point," said Schneider. "Given concerns about our community's image and the divisiveness that has developed, it's just not worth it."
With the opportunity at hand, Councilwoman Mary "Wez" Ligon made a motion to rescind the council's previous vote to "opt in" to the MMFLA.
In a roll call vote, the motion to rescind was approved by a 5-2 margin, with Steve Schneider and Gary Peltier joining with Dyke, Ligon and Melinda Steffler.
Those voting "nay" were council members Dave Love and Steven C. Schneider, who strongly voiced his disappointment after the vote.
Steven Schneider restated his position that having easy access to medical marijuana for cancer patients and others experiencing severe pain, was at the core of his support for the MMFLA.
"I'm very disappointed," said Steven. "I'm disappointed that so many people did not do their research on this issue.
"They're basing their positions not on the facts, but on fear, misconceptions and misinformation."
In late November, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted more than 360,000 signatures to Michigan's Secretary of State in an effort to have the issue placed on the ballot in November.
The Coalition's goal is for the State of Michigan to legalize, regulate and tax recreational marijuana like alcohol.
Under the terms of the organization's request, marijuana use would be permitted for adults 21 and over, but could not be consumed in public places or while driving.
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.