Recreational Marijuana Proposal Sparks Discussion in Harbor Springs City Council

January 17th, 2024 Legislation & Policy Updates
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In a recent city council meeting in Harbor Springs, Michigan, a significant topic of discussion emerged regarding the potential introduction of a recreational marijuana dispensary in the city. City Manager Victor Sinadinoski briefed the council on a letter from Ypsilanti attorney Anderson Grandstaff, who is advocating on behalf of an unnamed client for a citizen's ballot initiative to allow a recreational marijuana outlet in Harbor Springs.

The attorney's approach involves a proposed ordinance that would permit a single marijuana retail establishment within the city, subject to annual license renewal. This initiative would involve a detailed application process, including a scoring system for selecting a licensee, an application fee cap of $4,900, a required distance of at least 1,000 feet from schools, and the consideration of a community benefits program to support individuals adversely affected by past marijuana laws.

Currently, Harbor Springs City Code explicitly prohibits the operation of any marijuana establishments within its limits. To place this ordinance on the ballot, proponents would need to gather signatures from 25% of the city's eligible voters.

During the public comment section of the meeting, several residents, including Allison Larson, expressed opposition to the idea. Larson emphasized the availability of marijuana in nearby Petoskey and expressed concerns about the potential negative impact on Harbor Springs' community quality. She also noted that similar efforts by Grandstaff had been initiated in other Michigan towns like Coldwater and Howell.

Mayor Matthew Bugera acknowledged that the only immediate advantage of such an ordinance would be financial benefits from the state. Resident Kathy Motschall suggested that if there is genuine interest in pursuing this initiative, the attorney and his client should focus on signature gathering, leaving the city to address the matter if it gains sufficient traction.

Marinda Miller also voiced her opposition, expressing her alarm at the ease of introducing marijuana into the community and raising concerns about issues like fentanyl in the area.

As of now, the Harbor Springs City Council has not moved forward with any decision, maintaining the status quo while the debate on this contentious issue continues among its residents.

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