Alpena Municipal Council votes to allow recreational marijuana sales

News File Photo Marijuana is weighed on a scale in this News file photo. Alpena Township will hold a public hearing Monday for proposed amendments to its zoning ordinance. If approved, the amendments may clear the way for marijuana businesses to open in the township.

ALPENA — The sale of recreational marijuana from licensed dispensaries will become legal after the Alpena Municipal Council voted Monday to amend its medical marijuana ordinance to include adult-use marijuana.

Council voted 3-2 to allow for recreational marijuana businesses to operate, after it chose not to do so after Proposition 1 in 2018.

Mayor Matt Waligora, Mayor pro-tem Cindy Johnson, and Jesse Osmer voted in favor of the motion to amend the ordinance, while Mike Nowak and Danny Mitchell voted against it.

The proposal passed in Alpena by a little more than 200 votes in 2018.

The rules for recreational marijuana will mirror those of medical marijuana, as Council didn’t put a cap on how many businesses can open, with the appropriate license, and zoning buffers will remain the same.

A marijuana shop will not be allowed to operate downtown.

Last year the council adopted the ordinance for medical marijuana, allowing three marijuana shops to be opened in the city. So far, there has been little progress from Lume Cannabis Co, who intends to construct a facility on vacant property on Chisholm Street, across from the Cracker Barrel Party Store or Green Buddha, who plans to renovate the former Thunder Bay River Restaurant, also on Chisholm Street.

The third shop, Neighborhood Provisions, is in the midst of preparing its facility for opening for medical marijuana at the former Frank’s Key and Lock on Washington Avenue.

The cap on the number of businesses was also lifted.

Waligora has been in support of allowing an uncapped number of adult-use marijuana businesses to open in the city and to let the market determine which ones are successful. He said residents in the area are traveling out of town to purchase marijuana, so making it legal to be sold, will keep that money local.

“It is already available to everyone through a regulated source,” Waligora said. “If people are just going to buy it from another community, or have it delivered from another community, we might as well have it here.”

Nowak and Mitchell acknowledged the medical benefits of the drug, but both decided that making it easily available for recreational youth wasn’t the best direction for the city.

“I have no problem with it for medical use,” Mitchell said. “I just can’t in good faith, vote for more than that. We have the medical marijuana, when is enough, enough?”

Marijuana is considered a Schedule 1 drug by the federal government and considered illegal by the federal government. Voters approved recreational use in Michigan in 2018.


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