Cass County turns cold shoulder to medical cannabis

Published: Jul. 12, 2018 at 5:35 PM EDT
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Commercial cannabis continues to get the cold shoulder in Cass County.

Cass County is said to be one of the few in Michigan where all attempts to bring commercial pot there have been rejected.

This week, it was the same ol’ same ol’ in Newberg Township where the township board unanimously rejected a proposal for a marijuana growing operation.

“The township board then voted unanimously to opt out, received a standing ovation from the standing room only crowd that was there,” recalled Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz. “To this point, Cass County has continued to say ‘we like our lakes, we like our family friendly atmosphere, we don’t like robberies, we don’t like the smell of the stuff.”

Newberg became the third Cass County community to consider—then reject medical marijuana after hearing the ways in which those businesses would be unlike any that now line the Main Street. “This is a cash based business. Any federal, federally insured bank cannot take proceeds from a marijuana growing operation,” said Cass County Sheriff Richard Behnke.

“When you have a medical marijuana facility you can't by federal law you cannot have guns or armed security officers to guard it,” added Victor Fitz.

Couple that with being a ‘border’ county with Indiana—a state that has yet to legalize any form of marijuana, and you have all the ingredients for increased crime, in the eyes of law enforcement officials here. “A lot of our crime here in Cass County comes from the Elkhart County, St. Joe County area. People coming up to rob houses, or to steal cars or things like that. This just creates another opportunity that concerns us here in Cass County,” said Sheriff Behnke.

But Dr. Michael Radzienda, who proposed the Newberg Township growing operation, claims medical cannabis is not a criminal issue. “I think those who grandstand on medical cannabis as a political issue are doing a disservice to patients in the community.”

Radzienda felt a concern for patients is what was lacking from Monday night’s debate. “We don’t have hearings over whether or not we can have OxyContin dispensed in our pharmacies, throughout our communities. We don’t have debates on what kind of antibiotic I can prescribe to a patient with pneumonia,” Radzienda said. “It’s an education issue and I think that as law enforcement understands that this is a patient care issue and not a criminal issue then the two sides if you want to call them sides, may come together.”

Milton Township initially passed an ordinance to opt in to the medical marijuana act, only to later rescind that ordinance after public pressure.

The Village of Cassopolis earlier voted to opt out of the marijuana act.

“Each municipality has a right to make their decision. It’s just in Cass County, we feel that the best decision is to say no to 2016 medical marijuana and to protect our kids,” said Victor Fitz.

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