Big Rapids, Mich. residents to vote on recreational marijuana sales March 10

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BIG RAPIDS, MICH. – City residents on March 10 will decide whether or not to allow recreational marijuana sales in Big Rapids.

After the Big Rapids City Commission in October voted to allow recreational and medical marijuana facilities in the city, Mecosta County Commissioner Bill Routley started a petition against the sale of the substance.

“Many residents weren’t happy with the decision to allow the sale of adult recreational drugs in our city,” Routley said. “We requested that the commission wait to do this after more research.

“I have seen first-hand the negative impact it has on students as well as personal family members. There’s no value to it except for the seller.”

After being presented with 150 signatures on the petition, the city commission declined to re-vote on the subject, and instead moved Routley’s ordinance to be voted on during the March 10 Presidential Primary.

Since then, pro-marijuana voices in Big Rapids have come out as well. Brian Ridenar will be voicing his opinion at the polls March 10 and may be seen outside city hall with a megaphone, encouraging residents to vote in favor of pot.

“I am for recreational marijuana,” he said. “I do not smoke, but I feel if it’s legal in Michigan, it’s my right – or anybody else’s right – to smoke it.”

Campaigning for his side using the tools of social media, Ridenar is confident residents’ voices will be heard once more.

“It passed overwhelmingly last time. It’ll pass overwhelmingly this time – I will make sure of it,” he said.

After Michigan voters in 2018 passed Proposal 1, which effectively legalized marijuana in the state, municipalities had the option, following the vote, to outlaw marijuana sales in their own area – a topic which has long been discussed in the city of Big Rapids.

According to Big Rapids Director of Neighborhood Services Paula Priebe, in the 2018 general election, Big Rapids residents were strongly in favor of recreational marijuana, with 1,411 votes for yes and 734 for no.

After the election, the city held a special meeting to discuss the topic of recreational and medical marijuana sales in the city, and those in attendance were more split on the issue.

“I think it’s time, and I think it’s going to be well-received. And clearly, the people voted for it, so if you’re going to represent the wish of the people – I think they’ve made their decision,” one community member said during the meeting.

While many voiced their opinion in favor of marijuana, both medical and recreational, others were not inclined to follow the state’s lead.

“I think we need to set an example. Federal law says it’s illegal – period. No loopholes. When did we get to choose which laws we obey?” someone in attendance at the meeting asked the board.

After hosting the special meeting, the city commission in October decided to adopt both ordinances to permit medical and recreational (adult use) marijuana businesses in the city, which led to Routley starting his petition.

No matter which way the vote goes, Big Rapids Mayor Tom Hogenson hopes for a big turnout.

“It’s the American way,” Hogenson said. “We encourage everybody – regardless of how they feel about the issue – to vote on it and make their opinion known.”

For more information on marijuana within the city, visit

Understanding the ballot

“Marihuana establishments defined and authorized by the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act, Initiated Law 1 of 2018, are completely prohibited within the City of Big Rapids.”

By voting “yes,” you are choosing to prohibit, or not allow, recreational marijuana establishments in the city.

By voting “no,” you are choosing to allow recreational marijuana establishments in the city.

The resolution will appear on the March 10 ballot.

Alicia Jaimes