Midland, MI City Council discusses allowing marijuana businesses in city

(Photo by Vince Chandler / The Denver Post)

The Midland City Council may consider allowing marijuana sales in the city of Midland.

On Saturday, during its annual planning retreat, council discussed exploring the possibility of allowing medical and/or recreational marijuana businesses to operate in the city of Midland. While some councilors were on board with exploring these options, others were not.

Council member Pam Hall brought up the topic of exploring these businesses in a previous council meeting, and council asked city attorney Jim Branson to research this topic again. He presented his findings at Saturday’s meeting.

Councilors in February 2019 prohibited commercial marijuana establishments, such as dispensaries, stores, testing facilities, grow operations and transport facilities, from operating in the city. Branson said council acted appropriately at the time because there were not any applicants or licensing availabilities at the time, so it was best to wait and see what would happen.

If council does choose to explore allowing marijuana businesses in the city, Branson said they would have to consider where the businesses can be located, the number of businesses that would be allowed, enforcement, and application fees. Zoning matters would first be referred to the planning commission, Branson said.

Some things the city could be missing out on in the absence of marijuana businesses are tax revenues and the creation of new jobs, Branson said. However, bringing these businesses in would mean additional enforcement for police, he said.

The city of Saginaw has its marijuana ordinance “spot on,” Branson, said, deeming it successful based on conversations he had with city officials there. For instance, Saginaw’s ordinance lays out how far apart marijuana businesses can be from each other and from schools.

Hall said council should explore allowing the businesses in Midland in a respectful and professional way. She brought up medical marijuana users and said they should have options for this type of medical care in the city.

“We are saying that we are listening to the voices of the people, (but) I do not think we are if we are not allowing access to those in our community to access either medical or recreational marijuana in a carefully zoned location,” Hall said.

However, Mayor Maureen Donker said that this is not a priority of the city, and that just because the city can do it, does not mean it should.

“We have a lot of stuff that we are dealing with right now,” Donker said. “I do not think this is a priority. If there was not access in the region, I would say maybe, but I think where we are right now (is) on the right track.”

Council member Steve Arnosky said he is okay with holding off on allowing marijuana retailers in the city, but added that council should entertain the idea of allowing existing businesses in Midland to operate non-retail marijuana operations, such as transporting and testing.

Midland Chief of Police Nicole Ford said she has changed her mind over the years about legal marijuana, noticing how states like Colorado did not see an uptick in crimes in the area of dispensaries like she expected.

Branson said it is council’s choice what to do next with the information he presented. Council could either leave the law as is, or move forward with the process. Council asked him to look into allowing testing labs and to present ordinances from other municipalities (but not for retail).

Andrew Mullin