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DDA stands by pot position

ALPENA — Earlier this year, the Alpena Downtown Development Authority board voted 6-5 to recommend that the Alpena Municipal Council allow at least one medical marijuana dispensary downtown.

After learning the buildings housing such businesses are ineligible for government grants, the DDA reconsidered the issue on Tuesday, but nobody on the DDA board changed their stance.

The council hasn’t taken action on whether to allow marijuana stores in the city.

The Michigan Economic Development Corp. has informed municipalities that property owners who have or intend to house any marijuana business on their property would not be eligible for grant funding for improvements that may be needed to the buildings.

Many large projects downtown were made possible because of MEDC grants, which gets much of its funding from the federal government. Because marijuana is still considered a controlled substance by the federal government, the MEDC will not release funding for related projects.

That could lead to issues down the road, should a building such as the old antique mall on 2nd Avenue be sold to someone who intends to open a medical marijuana store. The building is in need of dire improvements, but it is unknown if a new owner who intends to sell the drug for medical use would cough up the large chunk of change necessary.

“If we have a blighted building downtown and someone buys it to put a dispensary in it, it is going to remain blighted unless they have the cash to improve it,” board President Mike Mahler said.

Board member Todd Britton said he believes property owners have the right to do what they want to their property and open the type of business they see fit, as long as it complies with laws. He said the DDA should not make a recommendation to council that could restrict those rights.

Board member Kyrie Momrik said she didn’t want to change her vote, which was for medical marijuana sales, but added that the MEDC stance is somewhat concerning, because there are still properties that need work.

“I feel like there are so many unknowns right now,” she said. “What buildings? If it was the antique mall, I would say oh, no, because we need as much money in the building as possible. I hope that anyone that would buy a building that needs that amount of work would have thought ahead and understands the type of investment that is needed there.”

The Municipal Council has had a pair of workshops on the medical marijuana issue, but no vote. More workshops will be held, but there is no timeframe for when the council could vote on the matter.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.com.

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