2018-03-21 / Editorial

Medical marijuana on the cusp in Lapeer

It’s not done yet, but the City of Lapeer will soon finalize a license process to be used by the city clerk’s office to accept applications for medical marijuana businesses effective April 2. It has been a yearlong process that the city embarked on in March 2017 when it hosted a town hall-style informational meeting at the Lapeer County EMS headquarters, and subsequently voted to “opt in” to medical marijuana businesses in the county seat.

The Lapeer City Commission will hold a special meeting Thursday evening (March 22) at 6:30 p.m. when officials are expected to approve a merit-based license application form. Over the last two weeks, the city commission has wrestled with which license process to adopt, none of which completely thrilled the commission, the city attorney or staff. Each plan had its pros and cons. In the end, the commission agreed to use a merit process by which an application can be vetted and scored by an independent panel. The other application processes discussed and denied were a first-come, first-served approach and a blind draw lottery. While the city attorney and staff favored a lottery, it too had its drawbacks — the biggest being that an applicant chosen by lottery for a medical marijuana dispensary license may have no business sense and inadequate funding and prove to be bound to fail.

Interestingly, city residents have been mostly absent from most commission and planning commission meetings where medical marijuana has been discussed at length over the past year. With the exception of the original forum held at the EMS building in Elba Township that attracted nearly 200 hundred people from throughout the community and region, very few local citizens have been in the seats at city hall.

In recent months the meetings have been attended regularly by about a dozen or more interested individuals, some whom have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on buildings and property in the hope of securing a dispensary license. Only six dispensary licenses will be issued.

Many reader letters and Sound Off comments regarding medical marijuana have been published by The County Press over the course of the last year, but again, few from city residents.

We’re not certain if the absence of city residents at city meetings means citizens have come to terms with the inevitable reality of medical marijuana business in Lapeer and they’re okay with it, or that people haven’t really paid close attention to the story. That would be unfortunate, because there’s bound to be reaction and a reality check when the first of up to six medical marijuana dispensaries appears in the city — but by then it will be too late if people have opposition to their operation in Lapeer.

The time has come and is largely gone for citizens to express themselves if they have any qualms with medical marijuana in the City of Lapeer. Thursday’s special meeting will be the last public meeting before the city begins accepting license applications on April 2 for dispensaries. The city has set no limit on the number of marijuana grow facilities that can operate in areas zoned industrial, nor are there limits on the number processors, secure transporters and safety compliance centers licenses that the city will issue.

The city has held approximately 25 public meetings regarding medical marijuana over the last year, each one offering a public comment period for residents to speak up and voice their concerns and offer suggestions for Lapeer officials to consider prior to making their decisions. There’s one meeting left.

We commend the City of Lapeer for conducting their due diligence on this important matter. If voters statewide next November approve legalization of recreational marijuana the City of Lapeer, and all communities in Lapeer County and across the state, would first have to opt in just like they did for medical marijuana. But the medical marijuana businesses will have a foot in the door and likely have first crack at obtaining a recreational marijuana business license.

As we approach the licensing, build out and opening of medical marijuana businesses in Lapeer, we will continue to monitor and report on that industry and its impacts on our community.

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