Houghton not buzzed on rec marijuana businesses

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Brian Irizarry of Houghton addresses the Houghton City Council Wednesday during a public hearing on its ordinance barring recreational marijuana facilities in town. The council passed the ordinance, which it will revisit later.

HOUGHTON — Houghton became the latest Michigan community to opt out of allowing recreational marijuana establishments Wednesday.

The council unanimously passed an ordinance barring businesses involved in selling, growing, transporting or processing marijuana. It also set the punishment for violation as a $50 civil infraction.

The ordinances do not affect medical marijuana establishments. Given the seven-year process for setting up that system, city manager Eric Waara said, it made sense to set up a countermeasure.

“Let’s let the state get their house in order and then this could be revisited at some point in the future,” he said.

Councilor Rachel Lankton agreed retail establishments could be a good idea. But she wants to hold off until the state creates regulations. Once recreational marijuana became legal in December, the state had a year to set up a regulatory framework for licensing establishments.

If communities take no action by that time, they will be responsible for determining regulation and licensing on their own.

“Once the state sets up the rules and regulation for licensing and regulation and THC levels and all that stuff, we can revisit that ordinance,” she said. “Until that happens, I don’t want our council to be in charge of setting up the rules.”

At a public hearing prior to the vote, resident Brian Irizarry encouraged the council to allow recreational businesses, which he said would provide jobs and tax revenue in the city.

“It’s important for cities to be able to regulate and control the THC concentration and potency so consumers — to use a liquor analogy — are not expecting beer and getting liquor,” he said.

Councilor Mike Needham asked Clerk Ann Vollrath to make a note to revisit the issue in October, by which time the regulatory situation may be more settled.

“I want to make sure we actively revisit it,” he said.