Niles, Buchanan weigh allowing marijuana dispensaries

Two towns in Michigan are a step closer to allowing medical marijuana dispensaries to open up shop.

Supporters hope it’ll mean more dollars for the local economy, more jobs and they hope easier access to marijuana for people with health problems rather than prescription drugs.

“Walking into this town, I see that it’s pretty dilapidated. I’ve been out west and I think there’d be a resurgence in the economy to put something like that into this town,” Chris Carson said.

For marijuana supporters, a new dispensary isn’t just wishful thinking for the town of Niles.

“I’d say we’ve had pretty significant interest… interest in all five types of medical marijuana facilities,” Niles city manager Rick Huff said.

The interest is there, and city leaders agree, so is the demand.

“For Berrien County, you’re talking around 15,000 people,” Huff said.

“It’s one, regulating it, getting it away from kids. It’s getting it into the right hands, getting it out of common crooks and getting it into business people’s hands,” Carson said.

City leaders in Niles and Buchanan are considering a plan to allow dispensaries to open by the end of the year. Niles police chief James Millin is skeptical, arguing the businesses could invite theft and saying medical marijuana cards are not hard to come by.

“When this law passed, I think a lot of people thought that it was going to be for those terminally ill patients, and I think that’s what most people passed it on was that belief,” chief Millin said.

While supporters say it could bring much needed dollars and jobs to southwest Michigan, Huff says the latest version signed by the governor makes the dollars themselves easier to track.

“The state of Michigan has invoked this Seed to Sale tracking system, where I think we’ll have a pretty good handle on what’s being grown, what’s being processed, what’s being sold and who it’s being sold to,” Huff said.

In February, Niles hosted a public forum during which around 200 people showed up. Of those who voted in the informal poll, more than 80 percent supported allowing dispensaries.
The program is being run by LARA, that’s Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

Licenses aren’t expected to be issued from Lansing until December. Huff says once that happens, shop owners could be ready to open immediately in Niles.

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