HARRISVILLE — The City of Harrisville City Council and the city’s Planning Commission held a special meeting Wednesday to learn more about recreational marijuana.
Mayor Jeffrey Gehring invited Tom Reif, a consultant with the firm Michigan Municipal Cannabis Consultants to speak to both boards.
Gehring said Reif is a “planning and zoning guy” and does not offer a sales pitch. He said city officials need to be as educated as possible on the subject and not make decisions based on past prejudices or stereotypes.
“We need information, everybody needs information. Information is power. Let’s take it and run with it,” he said.
Reif provided officials with a brief history of marijuana in the state — from the legalization of medical marijuana following a 2008 public vote to the legalization of recreational marijuana last November.
He explained that, under the medical marijuana law, cities like Harrisville are automatically considered out unless they “opt in” to allow medical marijuana businesses. With recreational marijuana, however, cities need to adopt an ordinance “opt out” of allowing the sale of recreational marijuana.
Reif explained that, if a city does not have an ordinance and someone applies to the state for a license to run a marijuana business, the state would grant them that license.
“It’s really important for the city, whatever you decide to do, that you address this issue at some point,” he said. “If you’re not going to allow these, it would be a good idea to have an ordinance saying, ‘We’re not going to allow these facilities in Harrisville.’”
Reif told council members he visits a lot of municipalities who do not want any marijuana in their communities. However, he said marijuana is already in their community and it’s likely neighbors are growing it but you just don’t know about it, because they’re not growing it in the open. He said it’s “literally everywhere.”
In Arenac County, where he lives, Reif said 40 percent — or four in 10 people — have a medical marijuana card. With the passage of Proposal 1 in November, Reif said it is now legal for anyone 21 years or older — whether they have a medical marijuana card or not — to physically possess 2.5 ounces of marijuana.
“That’s the reality,” he said. “We can’t wish this away. We can’t change it. It’s here. It’s here to stay. Love it or hate it, that’s the reality that we’re confronted with.”
The first step, according to Reif, should be for city officials to make a decision as to whether they’re going to allow or prohibit marijuana facilities. He said that, if the city does not want to allow marijuana, they should create an ordinance prohibiting the sale of marijuana and send a copy of the ordinance to the state.
If the city decides it’s going to embrace the sale of recreational marijuana, Reif said city council would then direct the Planning Commission to begin work on the ordinance or ordinances governing where in the city and how such businesses could operate. He said the city would want to draft both a medical marijuana ordinance and an ordinance allowing the sale of recreational marijuana.
“Whatever you guys decide to do, I would strongly encourage you to be as transparent as possible,” he said. “Don’t try to sneak this through or anything without the citizens knowing. Invite their participation.”
Under the law approved by voters in November, municipalities that prohibit the sale of recreational marijuana lose out on a cut of a state tax on the sale of the drug.
Crystal Nelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 989-358-5687.