Reed City council approves development of pot ordinance

Vote to adopt or not will come later

REED CITY — Reed City officials continue mulling the idea of “opting” into adult use marijuana sales and distribution, but many questions still remain for council members.

During a recent meeting, the city council approved a motion to direct attorney Cynthia Wotila to develop an ordinance outlining how the city would handle marijuana businesses, if and when they decide to allow them within city limits, with council member Trevor Guiles voting no.

Guiles said he didn’t believe there is a real drive to allow marijuana businesses in the city, and he thought it would be detrimental to the community.

“I don’t want Reed City to become ‘Weed City,’” Guiles said. “I don’t see any potential benefit. If you are telling me there is going to be a financial benefit, I don’t necessarily agree with that, and the money is not a good reason, in my estimation, to weather the risks. We also heard from Chief Lockhart that he is not in favor of this, and I think that is something we need to take into consideration.”

He added that the vote from the previous election was basically 50/50 for and against it in the city, and when you look at statistics, the communities most negatively impacted by these types of things are low-income communities.

“With all that being said, however, I do think it is prudent to have something that we can control ready to go as suggested, in case there is a scuttle about somebody trying to have a ballot initiative and we have no control,” he said.

Evart Chief of Police Chris Lockhart told the council during a previous workshop meeting that he did not want to see marijuana come into the community.

“I support the legal and responsible use of marijuana,” Lockhart said. “But I have seen reports that incidents involving cannabis driving has increased by 140%. In Colorado, since 2015, students in schools using marijuana dab pens has more than doubled. I don’t want to see it the schools, and I don’t want to see it cause issues for the health, safety and welfare of our community.”

During the public comment portion of the meeting resident Pat Osborne told the council that she had concerns about the possibility of allowing a shop to distribute and sell marijuana in the city.

“I believe we all want what is best for our youth and families in our community,” Osborne said. “With the technology we have today, it is very easy to find information on the negative effects of these products when used recreationally. Recent news articles have said that two negative effects on a community are increased hospitalizations for addiction and decrease income levels. I don’t want to see this in our community.”

GETTING AHEAD

Mayor Roger Meinert said the vote was just to work with the attorney to draft the ordinance, and once it is created council will vote on whether to adopt it or not.

During two recent workshop meetings, council members discussed the many issues involved with reversing their earlier decision to opt out of having marijuana in the city limits, including questions about how many to allow and how to go about regulating them.

Council member Nate Bailey told the council he would like to see them allow it and have discussions on the zoning regarding where they should be located and how many.

“There is a litany of reasons for us to do this,” Bailey said. “Job creation, building rehabilitation and increased property values are some of them.”

Mayor Roger Meinert said the reason it was brought up before the council was to get ahead of what he believes is coming anyway — support of an initiative to place it on the ballot for a vote.

“My concern is that if we don’t take action of some sort, then somebody is going to start a ballot initiative and get enough signatures to have a vote, and then we have no say over stipulations and regulations,” Meinert said. “Do we want to develop our own ordinance, where we can control the language and what the ordinance will or will not allow? We as a council need to decide how we want to move forward.” 

He added that the reason the council opted out initially was because there were so many questions about how it would work.

“There were a lot of unknowns at that time, so we decided not to opt in and council agreed to re-address it at a later time when we knew more and could see how it was working in other communities.

Attorney Cynthia Wotila told the council previously that the first step is to decide if they want to allow it, then decide what types of licenses will be allowed. After that the zoning restrictions would need to be put in place.

City manager Rich Saladin said a zoning ordinance would dictate the number and locations for the businesses and give council more control over how things are done.

“Not restricting how many takes any potential lawsuits off the table,” Saladin said. “All that can be controlled through the zoning, but there is still a lot of work to be done.”

Meinert added that marijuana is already in Reed City whether council takes action or not, the difference would be that those currently traveling to purchase it would purchase it in Reed city instead, bringing an influx of tax dollars and business to the city.

“The free market will dictate what happens,” Saladin said. “They may look at Reed City and decide they don’t want to put a store here because there are already so many in Big Rapids. There is no guarantee that somebody will put a store here.”