By Ken DeLaat
With the new Medical Marijuana laws looming ahead and set to take effect in December a number of communities throughout the state are considering allowing the businesses that produce transport, and distribute the product to establish themselves in their area.
These initiatives require municipalities to pass ordinances allowing the businesses to become part of the economic landscape of their community. Businesses that bring the promise of jobs as well as tax revenues to areas that would likely benefit from both.
And with these initiatives has come controversy.
On Wednesday August 9th the NC Board of Commissioners weighed in on the issue near the conclusion of their regular meeting.
“There are rumors that some commissioners favor medical marijuana,”said Commissioner Vern Willett before bringing forth a motion stating the Board of Commissioners go on record to oppose any Marijuana growing operation in Newaygo County.
Discussion ensued with Commissioner Chris Ortwein stating the city of Newaygo Planning Commission was moving forward to approve a growing facility.
“This brings 30-40 jobs paying between $16.50 and $24.00 an hour. This is also a research facility. It’s highly regulated and controlled and medical marijuana is a proven source of pain relief. It has nothing to do with recreational use.
“I know it’s controversial but I also look at the job part of it. It’s going to happen in our community or it’s going to happen next door.”
“I feel exactly the same way,” aid Commissioner Jim Maike. “This is a grow operation. If they don’t grow it here they’re going to move to the next county and grow it there and there are jobs and revenue that will be produced.” He added,“I’m not sure we have enough information right now to make a good choice on this.”
“I’ve been to a few meetings where they’ve discussed this and actually this is a city and township issue,” said Commissioner Chuck Trapp. “Earlier we decided to opt out and not say anything. There’s a lot of money that can come into the area from this and they’re having a hard enough time making these decisions without having us interfere in it.”
Commissioner Brian Kolk stated that while he holds some viewpoints on medical marijuana based on his law enforcement years he also supported leaving the issue to the local municipalities
“Based on what has happened in other states I don’t think it’s necessarily a good thing for our community but in our situation here I believe we should leave it up to the townships and cities.”
Commissioner Phil Deur stated “I come from the same angle as Commissioner Kolk and Commissioner Willett having also been in law enforcement but now medical marijuana has been approved and a significant number of people have found it to be beneficial. We all know cases where it might be abused but I can’t support the motion.”
Commissioner Willett reported that the pay rate in Colorado for people working in these facilities is actually around $9 per hour.
“You were all given a chance here to state your opinion,” he added. It’s the time for you to stand for what you believe in. We have no legal authority to stop any of these places. You are now given the chance to stand and be counted. Which ones of you will and which won’t.”
“I want to say that I support the medical only not the recreational, said Mr. Ortwein.
“I would agree with Commissioner Ortwein,” said Commissioner Patrick Gardner citing that no one would question a drug company coming in to manufacture their products.
"At this time medicinal use has been proven to be effective.”
Mr. Willett pointed out it is still against federal law, adding“You guys here have a chance to stand for your belief.”
Mr. Maike reiterated the need for more information and moved to table the motion until more information can be given. The motion to table was defeated 5-2 with Commissioners Willett and Maike voting in favor and the motion to go on record to oppose marijuana grow operations in the county was defeated 6-1 with Commissioner Willett casting the lone vote favoring the motion.
In other business the board appointed Robert O. Dakin , and Simon Scholtens to the Veteran’s Affairs Committee, approved the purchase of new software for the Animal Shelter, and approved changes in per diem payments to committee and board members in accordance with IRS guidelines.
The next Board of Commissioners meeting will be Wednesday August 23rd at 9:30am at the Newaygo County Administration Building in White Cloud.