Scottville commission hears first reading of marijuana ordinance. 

March 15, 2022

Scottville commission hears first reading of marijuana ordinance. 

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.

SCOTTVILLE — During Monday’s regular meeting of the Scottville City Commission, the first reading of the proposed new marijuana ordinance was presented. A first reading (or draft) of an ordinance must be presented followed by a 30 day waiting period before any action can be taken. 

The proposed ordinance allows for recreational and medical marijuana facilities within three zones of the city: the commercial zone bordered by State Street (US 10) to the north; Second Street to the south; Blaine Street to the east; and Reinberg Avenue to the west (this boundary is not an exact “square” but rather covers commercial properties within this area, not residential properties). The other zones are industrial zones including the western portion of First Street near the city’s water tower and then an area along Bean Street that includes the Gourmet Mushrooms plant and the Mason County Road Commission properties. 

Zoning limits a 350 feet distance between marijuana facilities. 

City Attorney Carlos Alvarado explained that by recreational and medical facilities can exist in one facility but must pay separate fees. He said it is rare for those facilities to co-exist in the state of Michigan, but it is legal. 

The ordinance also prohibits smoking of marijuana in any public space within the city limits. Violations of this ordinance can be prosecuted directly by the city’s attorney rather than by the county prosecutor. 

Getting to this point has been a lengthy process that began in late 2018 following the state-wide referendum legalizing recreational marijuana in Michigan. In 2019 the commission passed an ordinance prohibiting recreational marijuana facilities, mostly as a measure to wait and see how the state-wide law would play out for a couple of years.

The city’s ordinance committee and planning commission have been actively reviewing and discussing this proposed ordinance for almost a year with many opportunities for city residents to provide input. 

In my role as a commissioner, I have only had two citizens tell me they were opposed to this ordinance. For this reason, along with much research and analyzing, I will be supporting this ordinance. 

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. I have stated these before but will reiterate them: 

  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 two citizens who have expressed 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. When I say “citizen” I mean a person who lives in the city limits. 
  5. 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.

With all that said, I do not believe that marijuana is the golden ticket for Scottville’s future success. There is a lot of forward movement happening downtown. Most of the downtown buildings have recently been purchased by entrepreneurs who have proven track records. This change takes some time and isn’t instant but it is happening. Marijuana is only a part of the bigger picture. 

  The ordinance will be brought back up to the commission in late April.

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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