Greenville's Green Debate: Pushing for Adult-Use Marijuana

September 22nd, 2023 Legislation & Policy Updates
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For the third consecutive Greenville City Council meeting, Shawnee Bonner, co-owner of Green Medicine Shop—the sole medical marijuana center in the city—has passionately spoken on behalf of adult-use marijuana sales.

Shawnee and her husband, Matt Bonner, launched the Green Medicine Shop earlier this year. On Tuesday, the pair stood before the council with a familiar request: "We urge you to place adult-use cannabis sales on the council's agenda."

Greenville's City Council approved medical marijuana centers in February 2022 after almost a year of diligent planning by the Greenville Planning Commission. This led to the creation of the North Lafayette Zoning District on Lafayette Street, permitting medical marijuana centers to function on properties along M-91.

It was in 2019 when the Bonners first petitioned the council for marijuana provisioning centers. They celebrated the recent transformation of their business, GMS, into a medical marijuana center this past May. Now, their eyes are set on getting the city's approval for adult-use dispensaries, hoping to pivot their business model accordingly.

Despite sanctioning medical marijuana, the council opted out of permitting adult-use sales in 2019, even after the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act was ratified in 2018.

Shawnee emphasized the dynamic landscape of Michigan's marijuana industry since their initial plea. "Medical cannabis in Michigan is dwindling, while adult-use demand rises," she asserted. Furthermore, she mentioned that in Montcalm County, medical cardholders have dropped from 2,000 to 1,000 since 2019. This, she argues, further justifies the need to consider the transition to adult-use sales.

"Why not Greenville?" Shawnee questioned. "By amending the ordinance, the city could reap economic benefits and cater to a demand that a significant majority of the Greenville residents have voted for."

Notably, the 2018 Marijuana Act received a 58% approval rate in Greenville, which surpassed the statewide 56%.

Highlighting the economic angle, Shawnee cited data from neighboring towns that earned substantial tax revenues from adult-use marijuana. If Greenville follows suit, she believes it could mirror the success of municipalities like Sand Lake, Crystal, and Cedar Springs, to name a few.

Backing her argument with statistics, she mentioned that about $52,000 in tax funds was allocated per dispensary in the previous year. Furthermore, the nearby Belding City Council's recent approval of two adult-use dispensaries strengthens her case.

Appealing to the council's sense of community, Shawnee challenged lingering prejudices and misconceptions about marijuana. She stressed the dangers of prohibition, suggesting it strengthens illegal markets.

In response, council members Jeanne Cunliffe and Larry Moss vocalized their support. Moss, doubling as a Planning Commission member, detailed the meticulous process that green-lit medical marijuana in the past and vouched for its economic promise.

During the council's last meeting on September 5th, Mayor Jeff Scoby hinted at a gradual progression towards considering an adult-use marijuana ordinance.

No further comments were made by other council members or staff.

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