2018-03-04 / Insight

Almont looks to go green with medical marijuana

810-452-2616 • pfoley @mihomepaper.com

ALMONT — Marijuana is coming to Almont, but it’s likely the first business allowed under the provisions of the Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act (MMFLA) is still a year away from opening its doors.

When the state’s Dec. 15 deadline for municipalities to decide if they wanted to opt in to the MMFLA and allow any or all of the five marijuana related businesses allowed under the act — dispensaries, growers, testing facilities, and transporters — only Lapeer and Almont said yes. The county’s 18 townships, six other villages and Imlay City all either said no outright or effectively said no by not making a decision prior to the deadline.

Almont has been struggling with the question of marijuana since voters approved the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act 10 years. Village council members have approved multiple moratoriums while waiting for the state to issue definitive rules.

While 67 percent of Lapeer County voters said yes to the act, compared to the statewide approval rate of 63 percent, Lapeer County municipalities have remained sharply divided over the issue. Almont Village Council members voted 4-3, with Mary “Wez” Ligon, Melinda Steffler and Tim Dyke dissenting, Nov. 7 to opt in to the MMFLA provisions and just five days later Almont Township trustees voted unanimously to opt out.

Thursday (March 1) village officials mailed out 2,534 surveys to registered voters, property owners and business owners in the village. “The council,” said Village Manager Michael Connors, “wanted to reach as many stakeholders as possible.”

Each survey comes with a unique code number that allows people to either complete the survey online through Survey Monkey or return it by mail. The 10-question survey is intended to gauge public support for marijuana related businesses.

“I’m getting calls every day from zip codes I don’t know,” Connors said.

However, given the village’s size and available vacant buildings it is unlikely Almont is destined to be a major marijuana hub. State law prohibits grow operations within 1,000 feet of a school and it’s not clear how much of the village’s industrial park is beyond that limit.

Given the timelines for completing the survey and drafting and approving an ordinance, depending on who you talk to it could be anywhere between three and six months before the village has an ordinance in place. After that when the site plan approval process and state licensing process are factored in, it could well be a year before the first marijuana related business opens in Almont.

Almont Village President Steve Schneider, who’s late wife Sylvia suffered with chronic pain for more than 30 years, said he’s found the township’s response “a bit irking.” Schneider said, “Whenever there’s change there’s going to be some resistance. Let’s be a little bold.”

Still, he said, the village’s size is going to be somewhat “self-limiting.”

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