Niles – Niles City Council members appear open to the idea of putting rules in place that would encourage commercial medical marijuana operations in the city.

A new state medical marijuana licensing act puts rules into place to track marijuana production from seed to smoke. Members discussed what the new law could mean to the city at a council workshop session after their regular meeting Monday night.

City Administrator Ric Huff said he’s already been approached by marijuana growers who want to know the city’s plans in relation to the new licensing law. He suggested the council decide “sooner rather than later” if it wants to allow such facilities in the city in order to maximize its opportunities.

The new state law puts rules in place to track marijuana production from the selling of seeds and the propagation and growth of plants to harvesting, transporting the product, delivery and selling the product. Participating communities will have to pass an ordinance and licensing requirements for every step of the process.

Huff said the city will still be able to regulate where such facilities can be located. He recommended industrially zoned districts away from schools and homes as well as charging application fees. The city could also expect to get back a portion of the taxes collected by the state.

Council members were generally receptive to the idea. “My libertarian leanings tell me that we have to accept this,” John DiCostanzo said. “Socially, it’s becoming more acceptable … I would favor it being in industrial areas.”

Others emphasized security concerns. Gretchen Bertschy said she’d like to see companies have their own security so there would be less of a burden on the city police department. Police Chief Jim Millin said having more commercial facilities in the city might actually cut down on the number of residential medical marijuana operations in the city.

During the meeting, the council took action on two city projects: removing the Pucker Street Dam and renovating the old post office.

Relative to the dam project, the council approved taking some of the money collected from surcharges on people’s electric bills to reimburse the cash reserves of the utilities department’s electric division.

The city has collected $1 million so far from the electrical surcharge since it was added to people’s bills in 2015 to help pay for the dam removal project. The council approved taking $300,000 from that fund to pay for design work already done. That work has cost nearly $350,000.

City officials said two weeks ago that they’ve collected $2.4 million in grants and other funds and are still about $1 million short in being able to proceed with removing the dam. The dam is located on the Dowagiac River northeast of the city and hasn’t been in operation for more than two decades.

No one commented on a proposal made two weeks ago by Falling Waters Chairman David Snyder to take over the dam if the city pays the company $750,000. Utilities Manager Jeff Dunlap said Monday that the city has received no documentation that the company would be able to restore and operate the dam.

As for the old post office renovation, council members approved letting city staff issue a request for proposals to renovate the building as well as continue to negotiate with the Michigan secretary of state to lease part of the space. The project is expected to cost up to $800,000 and be paid for over time with lease payments from the state and other tenants.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker 420 MAGAZINE ®
Full Article: Niles Looking At Commercial Medical Marijuana Operations
Author: Debra Haight
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