Scottville to consider repealing recreational marijuana ban.

November 16, 2021

Scottville to consider repealing recreational marijuana ban.

By Rob Alway

Editor’s note: Rob Alway is a Scottville city commissioner and editor-in-chief/owner of Mason County Press. This article serves as an op-ed, including some opinion as an elected official.

The Scottville City Commission is considering repealing its current ordinance that prohibits the sale of recreational marijuana in the city. This is a conversation that has been going on for quite a long time. It began in late 2018 following the state-wide referendum legalizing recreational marijuana in Michigan. In 2019 the commission passed an ordinance prohibiting its sale, mostly as a measure to wait and see how the state-wide law would play out for a couple of years.

It’s now been a couple of years.

Reaching this point to bring this back on the table has not been an easy decision. The legalization of marijuana has been controversial. I personally have had mixed feelings about it. But, ultimately, we as a commission must look out for what is best for the City of Scottville.

There are some key points that have swayed me, as a commissioner, to lean toward supporting the sale and growing of recreational pot in the city.

  1. It’s legal in the State of Michigan. There are already businesses from other counties that will deliver marijuana to Scottville and other towns (yes, even Ludington) where the sale is currently illegal from establishments located in those municipalities. Authentic 231, based in Manistee, an advertiser of Mason County Press, is one such business that offers this service. This means that the City of Scottville is losing potential revenue streams for a service that is already happening.
  2. By the city passing an ordinance, it will be able to “stay ahead” of the inevitable legalization of marijuana on the federal level. The city’s ordinance will have restrictions on where it can be sold, where it can be grown and where and how it can or cannot be used in public spaces. The city will establish ordinances that can be prosecuted by the city’s attorney, avoiding the gray-lines of the state laws. This is a stance that our police department supports. Both alcohol and marijuana can certainly be “gateway” drugs to harder drugs. But, those harder drugs already are a problem in the city. And, those harder drugs seem to be cheaper than marijuana. The marijuana dispensaries that would be established in the city would likely attract a customer who is able to afford to spend more money on a product.
  3. The City of Scottville has a potential to see a significant revenue boost through fees and fines that it can assess on marijuana establishments. Two years ago I wanted to see if this “golden ticket” was fact or fiction. From testimonies from other cities of comparable size to Scottville, we have seen the benefit. There is a lot of momentum in Scottville — like, very exciting big things that are about to happen to downtown. Those behind that movement have expressed they would not be opposed to offering a limited amount marijuana establishments in town to attract a diverse clientele.
  4. I have been elected to represent the people of Scottville. This is a topic that has been well publicized for several months. To date, I have only had one letter from one citizen expressing opposition to this change. I have also had one other citizen express, in passing, that he was opposed (but after further conversation, he understood the reasonings for changing the ordinance). To date, no citizen has come to a public meeting to express opposition. Interestingly enough, only two citizens (husband and wife who have a business interest in this topic) have come to public meetings to express their support. I can only assume, then, as a representative of the people that the majority is in favor of this change.   

As a city commissioner, I have the responsibility to balance what’s in the best interest of the citizens of the city. I want Scottville to be a safe place to live. I also want Scottville to be a prosperous town. I, along with other commissioners and City Manager Jimmy Newkirk and Police Chief Matt Murphy, have spoken to officials from other communities. We have even visited some of these communities. Crime has not increased. But, revenues have increased, meaning these towns have been able to hire more police officers, more office staff, pave or maintain more streets, replace other important infrastructure.

Last week, the city’s ordinance committee — which consists of Mayor Marcy Spencer as chair, Commissioner Aaron Seiter, and myself — along with the city’s planning commission, held a joint meeting to discuss zoning of marijuana-related establishments if an ordinance allowing the sale and growing of recreational marijuana were to be adopted.

Both committees are recommending a limitation of two provisioning establishments in a portion of downtown. As allowed, the city will likely establish “safe” zones, not allowing marijuana-related businesses within a certain distance from the schools. Assuming at this time that that zone is about 1,000 feet, this means that sales will be limited to an area south of State Street (US 10). The recommended area consists of boundaries that are north to State Street, south to Second Street and east to Blaine Street. The western boundary staggers a little bit to avoid residential areas, but is basically west just beyond West Shore Bank on the northern boundary south to Scott Street. Again avoiding residential areas.

Further discussion will be necessary on the establishment of other facilities including growers, processors, secure transporters, safety compliance and micro-growers

The City Commission met last night, Monday, Nov. 15. We were prepared to move forward with taking action on repealing the prohibition ordinance and taking steps toward creating a new ordinance. However, two commissioners were unable to attend, and one commissioner, Bruce Claveau, has recently resigned because he has moved out of state. This means the commission is already short one vote and would have only had four people making the decision. Mayor Spencer did not believe this was fair to the citizens of Scottville.

If this passes, I would like to make this statement to those who live or visit Scottville who chose to partake in the use of recreational marijuana: Obey the law and have courtesy of your neighbors and be conscious of your children.

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