Feds draw new hard line on marijuana

HOUGHTON — The federal government’s recent harsher stance on marijuana could impact the state in the wake of its recent medical marijuana law, Houghton City Manager Eric Waara said Wednesday during a discussion of the city’s lone medical marijuana dispensary.

As a condition of new loans and grants, USDA Rural Development now requires that there be no marijuana-related activity “on the premises of the WEP loan or grant-financed facility during the loan or grant period.”

“This is literally two weeks old, and nobody’s really gone through and defined the word ‘premises’ in that language, but it does cast an interesting light on opting-in for some communities,” Waara said.

By a 5-1 vote on Wednesday, the council authorized Clerk Ann Vollrath to sign a form attesting that the facility had been operating legally under a city ordinance, its continued operation is authorized by the city, and the city is planning to draft and consider a new ordinance compliant with the state’s new Medical Marijuana Facility Licensing Act, which requires the facility to be licensed through the state.

Councilman John Sullivan, who cast the sole vote against the measure, had previously offered a motion not authorizing the clerk to sign the form, which did not receive a second.

He said he had spoken to people from Colorado, which has legalized recreational marijuana, at a Michigan Municipal League conference last fall.

“They were definitely opposed to anything in league with marijuana,” he said.

Councilman Philip Foltz asked Police Chief John Donnelly if police have had issues with the existing dispensary.

Donnelly said he “can’t say it’s been harmonious,” particularly under the previous owner.

Foltz criticized the state Legislature for passing the problem onto municipalities. The state’s attempt to “make a whole bunch of money” on licenses could just drive the market underground, causing an even bigger problem for law enforcement, he said.

“They put us in the position of having to make decisions on their ineptitude,” he said. “They leave us holding the bag. If we say yes, we don’t get loans. If we say no, then you potentially have another problem.”

Foltz said he did not think the dispensary has been a problem for most of the community.

TOMORROW: When it comes to issues involving drug use, the focus should be on the opioid addiction epidemic rather than medical marijuana, one Houghton City Council member said.