Calumet medical marijuana issue still cloudy

CALUMET — The introduction of a medical marijuana facility ordinance by Trustee Nathan Anderson at the March 19 regular council meeting can almost guarantee a reigniting of the past volatile debate on the issue more than a year ago when a medical marijuana dispensary was closed.

The Village Council voted in December 2017 to take no action on the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act, which ultimately led to the closure of Zen Garden on Sixth Street.

The council’s decision led to protests, recall petition and overall discontent among many village residents.

At the December 2017 meeting, Council President Dave Geisler said while the council was not against a medical marijuana facility in the village, members had decided to take no action at the time because there was a lack of clear information about the law coming from state regulators.

At the time of the council’s decision, Geisler said four other townships and one city in the Upper Peninsula passed similar ordinances related to medical marijuana.

The other municipalities throughout the U.P. opted out for the same reason: state laws and regulations were vague and confusing, making them subject to unpredictable changes.

On March 1, 2019, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order eliminating the Medical Marihuana Licensing Board created in 2016, replacing it with the Marijuana Regulatory Agency, functioning within the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

The MMLB has been targeted by critics, saying it is inconsistent and too slow in processing licensing applications.

“All elements of this agency have been designed to serve and better protect Michigan residents,” said Whitmer in a statement, “and I’m eager to have a unified effort across state departments to make sure this process runs effectively and efficiently. I appreciate the productive input I’ve received on this important issue, including from Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey.”

Currently, Houghton has the only medical marijuana provisioning center in the Upper Peninsula, out of 67 such facilities throughout the state, while there are 293,000 patients who possess medical marijuana cards in Michigan.