Webster Township and the City of Dexter will soon decide if they will participate in the business of recreational marijuana.
Webster Township Trustee, John Scharf, recently told the Dexter Forum of the township’s efforts to poll residents where they stood in regards to bringing the business of marijuana into their community.
“Our Township has three precincts and all three precincts voted in favor of recreational marijuana,” John explained. “We have a sense that the citizens approved the use of marijuana but we don’t have a sense of where they stand in regards to the growing, manufacturing, and distribution of marijuana in their Township.”
How Close is Too Close?
The township sent out a survey to residents to help form their decision. Results are still being collected. Webster Township is holding a public hearing Tuesday, Jan. 15, 7 p.m. at the township hall for residents to speak out on the issue.
Likewise, the City of Dexter will be conducting a public hearing on the same issue Monday, Jan. 14, 7 p.m. at the Senior Center. The City invites residents to express their views on the business of recreational pot in Dexter.
Dexter City Council member Paul Cousins commented, “With all the restrictions as to where these types of businesses can be located, proximity to schools, churches, and things like that, it would be very hard to find any place in Dexter that met the requirements.”
The passage of Proposal 1 in Michigan automatically “opted in” all municipalities giving them permission for pot production, processing, and distribution. If local communities wish to exclude themselves from any marijuana businesses, they must officially move to “opt out.”
To make things a bit more confusing, when medical marijuana passed in Michigan a few years ago, it was the opposite. Municipalities were automatically “opted out” and had to choose to “opt in” to the medical marijuana business.
How Many of Us Voted for Weed?
The City of Dexter has 3 voting precincts. Of those three precincts, 2,424 votes were cast on Proposal 1 with 1,514 in favor for a 62% approval rate.
Webster Township also has 3 precincts. Of the 3,961 votes cast on Proposal 1 in Webster, 2,259 were in favor for a 57% approval rate.
Dexter Township, with another trio of precincts, cast 3,866 votes on Prop 1 of which 2,270 approved for 59% in favor.
But how does the approval of recreational pot relate to having the weed business nearby? That’s the question civic leaders are trying to answer.
The Forum Speaks Out
As always, the Forum did not lack for strong, well-formulated, and insightful opinions.
“When it comes to drugs, it’s very hard to put boundaries on anything. It does what it does whether they are legal or illegal. I know the attempt is to make it legal now in order to put some sort of control on it and tax it, but we’ve opened a Pandora’s Box here.”
In regards to the idea that tax revenue will increase …
“When they say it’s an economic issue, it’s a false economic issue because we look at the stream up front, but we don’t look at the back societal cost.”
“We are going into competition with the illegal drug trade. It’s still an open market out there. We talk about taxing marijuana but we can’t make the price of legal marijuana so high that it’s cheaper illegally.”
“I believe the recreational use of marijuana is still illegal under federal law and that should be taken into consideration.”
Before retiring, Gene Utke spent his career working with people struggling with substance abuse. He had this to tell the Forum:
“As much as you think you know about what’s going on with drugs, you’re way short in understanding the extent of [drug production and use]. It is everywhere and so common that it is almost beyond belief. It’s ruined families. It is an epidemic of gross proportions. You can argue marijuana, whether it’s an entry-level or a lead to drug, but there are always people who fall victim to addiction no matter what the substance is. We’re going to have to deal with that.”
And then, giving folks a much bigger question to ponder, Gene adds,
“If you take the macro view, why is it the United States is the biggest user of these drugs? Why is it our culture just seems to suck up these drugs from all these other countries? We have to look at what’s wrong with us, what is missing with us that this is such a thing that fills every vacuum.”
Dovetailing off of Gene’s point, it was noted that illegal drugs were no longer the only pharmaceutical addictions.
Colorado’s Pot Legalization
Resident’s of Colorado voted to approve the legalization of recreational marijuana in Nov. 2012. Sales went into effect a year later. The measure passed with a 55% of voters in favor. Michigan approved the use of pot with 56% approval.
As of April 2017, 176 of Colorado’s 272 municipalities have “opted out” of allowing any recreational marijuana within their boundaries.
Since legalizing pot, Colorado has seen its crime rate rise while the rest of the nation declines. In an article last Spring by Fortune Magazine, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper explained that “he is not ruling out marijuana illegal again.” There is no research however relating the increased crime rate to the legalization of weed.
“Trust me, if the data was coming back and we saw spikes in violent crime, we saw spikes in overall crime, there would be a lot of people looking for that bottle and figuring out how we get the genie back in,” he said. “It doesn’t seem likely to me, but I’m not ruling it out.”
While the State sorts out the regulations and licensing, communities will continue to decide whether or not they want the weed business within their boundaries. To date, 80 Michigan municipalities have banned, or are moving to ban recreational marijuana.
The Ann Arbor Planning Commission recently voted unanimously this past week to approve a 500-plant marijuana grow facility in Research Park off of State St. just south of I-94.
If the Dexter area communities “opt out” of the pot business, residents who wish to recreate with marijuana won’t have far to travel to get some. Ann Arbor has already approved 25 pot dispensaries capping the total at 28, for now. The City has also approved 4 processing plants.
With a year or more before any marijuana businesses crop up, communities have plenty of time to “opt out”, or even “opt back in” if they were to choose. There is yet much discussion and decisions to be made as to how Proposition 1 should be implemented.
Jan. 14, 7 p.m. City of Dexter Public Hearing
Jan. 15, 7 p.m. Webster Township Public Hearing