Southwest Michigan community already bans commercial cannabis businesses

EAU CLAIRE, Mich. (WNDU) - Commercial cannabis will soon be legal in Michigan, but will it be welcome?

“We just don’t want to sell it here in town,” said Ken Karn, current president of the Eau Claire Village Board.

Before voters even went to the polls on Tuesday, Eau Claire had already passed an ordinance on Oct. 31 to “completely prohibit” commercial cannabis businesses from locating there. The decision came despite the fact that the small village has a large number of empty storefronts along its business district.

"I would love to be involved in Eau Claire doing something with cannabis,” medical marijuana caregiver Rick Anstiss said. "I’d say on the low end, a dispensary right here in Eau Claire, on the very low end, would be $5 million gross."

While village leaders decided that medical marijuana is just what the doctor ordered to bring the old Silver Mill Foods plant back to life as a grow facility, the new ordinance dispenses with the idea of recreational dispensaries.

“At this moment, all marijuana is a cash business. They can't put their money through the bank, so they're going to have storefronts with lots of cash,” Karn said. “We're a small community and we only have a part-time police chief and a full-time, one full-time officer.”

Unlike the medical marijuana rules, the recreational version allows voters — not the village board — to make the final call. That is if enough petition signatures can be gathered to put the matter on the ballot in the first place.

“Just a matter of, like I said, that standing up. If you’re going to stand up, stand up. Continue standing up. Don’t stand up, get knocked down and stay down. That's why cannabis is where it is at right now,” Anstiss said.

Proposal 1 passed in both Berrien and Cass counties, but not in Oronoko Township, where an ordinance to ban commercial cannabis businesses will be considered by the Township Board next Tuesday.

The city of Niles is expected to eventually consider a ban on commercial cannabis businesses, as well, although the matter won’t be on Monday’s meeting agenda.