Marijuana dispensary in Niles gets a green light
It's no longer of a question of if. Medical marijuana is coming to Niles whether you like it or not. But some questions remain, like "how?" and "where?"
The Niles City Council work group tried to figure out the answer to those questions Monday night.
After the meeting, it looks like they're officially ready to start writing up an ordinance for each of the medical marijuana processes as it moves in at the end of the year.
The meeting was essentially filled with council members going back and forth with their opinions on how each of the 5 processes (grower, processor, secure shipping, provisioning center, safety compliance facility) should play out.
"I think we should let the market work and fill up these vacant spaces," Mayor Nick Shelton said.
"I'm not a smoker, never have been," Council member Charlie McAfee said. "But if I had cancer or whatever I would learn how real quick."
One of the bigger issues was where exactly the buildings should go. Downtown? Or a little farther out.
"The people I'm speaking with, it was all pretty unanimous that we would like to have the dispensaries downtown and everything else, commercial/industrial," Bryan Williams said.
"We want to have a flourishing downtown with people wanting to go down there shopping with having stores down there that would be inviting to families to come," Jo Flock said.
Opponents of having storefronts opening downtown say it will drive away people from visiting because they wouldn't want to see it.
"'Oh, we don't want to go down there,'" Flock said. "'They got that marijuana store.'"
Proponents say that store is no different from getting a new pharmacy downtown.
"This is a prescribed drug," Williams said. "It's not a recreational fun-time thing. It's a prescribed- eventually will it be? Probably. But right now, it is not like a bar. It is not like a liquor store- which was brought up. It's a pharmacy."
City Administrator Richard Huff took into consideration everything the council members had to say- for and against- and is ready for the next step.
"I believe I understand what the core direction the majority of the council is looking to go," Huff said. "And that we can craft a draft ordinance along those lines for further discussion."
The council compared some stats to Durango, Colorado and apparently, they've rewritten their ordinance 4 times already. With that, the council says there is always room to change some things around if they aren't working.
Some council members recommended they start slow with some limits on licenses and plants they can grow. This way, the city could start things off cautiously going into the new year.
The ordinance still has to be written. So we don't really know how things are going to play out until the ordinance becomes a document.
Niles city leaders are considering a plan for a new marijuana dispensary to set up shop in the town's old post office.
This week’s meeting is a work session for council members and city staff to discuss the proposal.
Potential business owners are eager to get the necessary approval, as Michigan plans to start issuing the first licenses before Christmas.
Most neighbors in Niles have memories of the old post office at 322 East Main Street.
“Because I can remember going there to buy stamps. And it's been a long time,” Carol Curtis said.
The building now houses two tenants, and could welcome a third. A potential buyer has approached the city, wanting to buy the old government building and turn it into a medical marijuana dispensary.
“A provisioning center, as the law calls it. That would be consumables, edibles, smokables, those types of things,” Niles city administrator Richard Huff said.
The idea is a somewhat radical concept for Niles. It'd be the first of its kind, but in the last few months, city leaders said they'd listen to any proposals after the governor OK'd five types of cannabis industries in Michigan.
“Nobody's going to be able to open up anything until the licensing is authorized by the state, which is December of this year,” Huff said.
There are estimated to be around 15,000 card carrying potential customers in Berrien County. Neighbors in Niles have mixed feelings about a potential marijuana shop opening up downtown.
“There are still going to be a lot of people in town who question it. Simply because they associate it as being pot,” Curtis said.
“They're going to have it in town and somebody who really needs to have it is going to end up buying it and sell some of it if they need money desperately,” Rita Quijas said.
Niles city leaders won’t decide on the dispensary just yet.
A medical marijuana business can operate in Michigan as a grower, a processor, secure shipping, a provisioning center, which is where you'd go to buy it... or a safety compliance facility, which is an independent testing lab.