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Alpena to consider recreational marijuana Tuesday

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ALPENA — The fate of the legal sale of recreational marijuana in Alpena could be decided on Tuesday night.

A special joint meeting of the Alpena Municipal Council and the Alpena Planning Commission begins at 6 p.m. Tuesday in council chambers at City Hall. At that meeting, the council could support draft amendments to its existing medical marijuana ordinance to add rules for operating recreational cannabis shops in the city.

If the council chooses to move forward or make changes to the draft ordinance, it would take several additional meetings before it gets a final vote, Mayor Matt Waligora said. The matter could be pushed into next year if significant changes are needed, he said.

The council already has allowed the sale of medical marijuana and greenlit three shops, though none have yet opened.

Recreational marijuana shops have opened near Rogers City and near Harrisville.

Michigan voters OK’d the sale of recreational cannabis in 2018, but that law allowed local governments to prohibit commercial sales in their boundaries — as Alpena has thus far.

Waligora said he hopes the council votes on the proposed ordinance. Even if there isn’t enough support for it, those involved in making the rules wouldn’t have to waste any more time on the matter.

“I don’t want staff or anyone else to have to go through any more work unless the council signs off on it,” he said.

Two companies, Green Buddha and Lume Cannabis Co., were originally the only two outfits eligible to open medical marijuana shops in Alpena, because the council capped the number of shops allowed. After an appeal by another company, Neighborhood Provisions, the council voted to undo the cap, and Neighborhood Provisions is moving forward with opening its shop.

So far, there has been little progress from Lume, who intends to construct a facility on vacant property on Chisholm Street, across from the Cracker Barrel Party Store. Green Buddha plans to renovate the former Thunder Bay River Restaurant, also on Chisholm Street.

Waligora said he expects the ordinance, if passed, to closely resemble the city’s ordinance on medical marijuna, which would prohibit such businesses from opening in downtown Alpena.

One thing is certain, Waligora said: Public input about the matter will be essential in helping the council make a decision.

“It will be huge,” he said. “Sometimes it’s difficult to know if you are hearing from the majority of people or not, so it is important to hear the voice of as many people as possible.”

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