THERE WILL BE no recreational marijuana businesses in the city of Marquette in the near future.
That’s the bottom line after the City Commission Monday night voted 4-3 to opt-out on Michigan’s recently passed marijuana legalization law.
Couple quick points: This in no way affects the smoking or possessing of small amounts of marijuana, or the growing of 12 plants in confined, private areas of your home. That’s still perfectly legal.
And second, none of the four commissioners who voted to opt-out indicated they were opposed to eventually allowing marijuana businesses in the city. In fact, just the opposite.
What they did say was they wanted to wait until the State Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Department comes up with statewide regulations on marijuana businesses. That will happen by December.
Then, presumably, the city would adopt those regulations along with local ordinances–zoning, in particular–to regulate the pot businesses in town.
“The city is not against marijuana businesses,” said commissioner Dave Campana, one of the opt-out votes. “We’re not trying to stop them from coming in. That’s not the issue. The issue is administrative. It’s going to take time.”
The vote followed a lengthy period of public comment on the issue, with most speakers favoring opting in and allowing the immediate permitting of pot businesses. Many of the speakers were from NMU, which has pioneered a medicinal plant chemistry major.
“I love this town,” said Romeo Verno, an NMU student from Florida who’s in the program. “The summer’s beautiful here and I’m going to need internships. But I’ll need to leave. And if it (commercial marijuana) is not established here, there’s no reason for us to stay. I’d like to open my own shop some day and I’d like to do it here.”
The students and their supporters further argued that allowing marijuana businesses now would bring in more entrepreneurs, more jobs, and more tax dollars for the city.
But the commissioners ultimately voted for caution and delay. Interestingly, all four opt-out votes were men. All three opt-in votes were women.
So far, nearly 300 Michigan communities have voted to opt out on permitting marijuana businesses.
Marquette, which voted 62-38% last November in favor of legalizing marijuana, now joins those other towns but with the understanding–we think–that once the state regulations are written up by the end of the year, then Marquette commissioners will vote to opt in. And allow pot retailers, distributors, growers and such to set up their businesses in town.
That was the implicit promise the commissioners gave us on Monday night.