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  • Writer's pictureJared Cramer

Readings approved for medical marijuana facilities

Below is an article that appeared in the February 20, 2020, edition of the Grand Haven Tribune that referenced our church.

Grand Haven City Council on Monday approved the second reading of a zoning amendment that would add five new land uses related to medical marijuana establishments.

Council also approved the first reading of a regulatory ordinance, which will require a second reading before it becomes effective.

Both readings were approved with 4-1 votes. Councilman Dennis Scott opposed both measures.

Scott noted a majority of the local law enforcement officials he’s talked to and heard from also have opposed medical marijuana in the city. “We pay these people to protect our city, to watch over our city, and yet we ignore what they have to say,” he said. “I think that’s tragic.”

The decision to approve the zoning amendment was a continuation of what was postponed at council’s Jan. 20 meeting.

Scott said he will always oppose marijuana as he feels it is a “gateway” drug, a substance that could lead to the use of other drugs, after watching his son go from using marijuana to cocaine to heroin. “I do not promote this stuff,” he said. “I think it’s wrong. I think it’s a detriment to our society. I think it’s a detriment to our city.”

At a previous work session, council members discussed the proposed regulations, land uses – provisioning centers, growers, processors, secure transporters and safety compliance facilities – and distances between these potential facilities and various organizations in the area.

Scott advocated for 1,000-foot buffers from state-licensed child care and substance use disorder programs, places of worship, and parks, as well as a 1,000-foot buffer around schools and Loutit District Library per the drug-free school zones law. However, the council ultimately agreed to use 500-foot buffers instead.

Council members look at an option for different ways to measure buffers for properties with multiple land uses or with multiple tenants during Monday’s meeting.

The Rev. Jared Cramer of St. John’s Episcopal Church asked the council to consider revisiting the original proposal submitted by the city’s Planning Commission with the only buffer included being around drug-free school zones.

“This is an issue that I know emotions run high, but there are a lot of really good statistics out there,” he said.

Cramer noted eight in 10 physicians support the use of medical marijuana, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. A study by the University of Michigan says the average age of someone using medical marijuana is about 41. Cramer said that, according to the same study, more than half of people using medical marijuana are over the age of 50.

“These are people who are fighting cancer, dealing with chronic pain or significant anxiety that have an option for treatment that has been approved legally, that’s recommended by their doctors,” he told the council. “And the fact that we would be only the second place in Ottawa County that’s available breaks my heart. People that are older and struggling and trying to get a medicine that is legal and allowed for medical use have to work so hard to get it. I’d love to see Grand Haven become a place that is more compassionate to those in the medical marijuana community who need this.”

As only the second city in Ottawa County to offer a place for medical marijuana facilities, Grand Haven would “become a Mecca” for those who use the substance, including people who may be taking advantage of the situation, former Mayor Geri McCaleb said to the council.

“This is where people would come to get their medical marijuana, to fulfill their card that they’ve gotten from a doctor or paid $100 online for,” she said. “Is that who we want to be?”

McCaleb noted an attendee at a Planning Commission meeting said they would like to see Grand Haven be a destination for recreational marijuana vacations.

“If you don’t think that’s a possibility once you open the door to medical marijuana, you’re dreaming,” McCaleb said. “This concerns me for my community.”

She told the council that she felt they needed to look at the downsides of how marijuana could affect the city.

“The thought that marijuana isn’t currently here, or that we are keeping it out by not approving a medical marijuana facility, is just not accurate,” Councilman Ryan Cummins said. “Marijuana is here."

“I believe that whether you agree with medical marijuana or not, if somebody’s medical doctor says they could benefit from it and prescribes it to them, then that’s something they should be able to get in their own community the same as they could get any other prescription,” he added.

Cummins said the majority of the city voted in favor of medical marijuana facilities in Grand Haven, and he feels that it his responsibility to listen to the will of the voters. Councilman Mike Dora agreed. “I’ve struggled with this ever since we got this at the Planning Commission in March,” he said. “Personally, I don’t support it, but I am not here to supply what I personally believe or do not believe is the right or wrong thing to do. My position here is to weigh all the opinions brought before me and to try and make the best decision for everyone involved.”

Dora said while he can’t dispute what Scott said, he believes the work the Planning Commission and City Council put in was done in good faith.

McCaleb approached the council during Monday night’s second call to the audience to share her thoughts on the readings being approved.

“I’m extremely disappointed that you took the easy way out on the marijuana thing,” she said.

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