ALPENA — Residents in Alpena voted to legalize adult use marijuana in 2018 when Prop. 1 passed statewide.
The Alpena Municipal Council chose to opt out of the law and not allow the sale of the drug in the city.
On Monday, the council began setting the stage for reviewing that decision.
The topic of allowing recreational marijuana to be sold in the city was broached by councilwoman Amber Hess. She said people in the city expressed their desire in November 2018, and the city is missing a chance to capture needed tax revenue that can be used for many things.
Hess, who is not running for reelection in November because she is moving, said she felt the time was right to begin a conversation on the issue.
She said people are traveling out of town to purchase marijuana now, which means the city is missing out.
“The majority of voters approved it,” she said. “There are funds to be had that would allow the city to make improvements.”
Mayor Matt Waligora said staff should contact officials in places like Rogers Township, Harrisville, Tawas, and Oscoda — all of which have recreational marijuana shops — to see what issues, if any, they have experienced since the stores opened.
He said that would give the city a sense of what to expect — good or bad — moving forward.
“It would allow us to see if the communities are seeing the fears that have been brought up here,” he said.
Councilman Danny Mitchell has been seeking input from his constituents. Mitchell, who was against the idea when elected, said he was put in office to act on behalf of the people. He is willing to set aside his personal feelings on the matter, if it is the will of the people to allow adult use marijuana in the city.
“I have personal reasons that I don’t want recreational marijuana,” Mitchell said. “But I can’t and won’t act on my personal reasons because I represent the people.”
Mitchell has used Facebook to gather opinions on the matter.
Councilman Mike Nowak said in Alpena, there were only a touch over 100 votes separating those who approved of recreational marijuana becoming legal, and those who were against it. He said there are a lot of people who are taking a wait-and-see approach to see how things work when the new medical marijuana shops open.
Nowak said the council would be wise to see if there are any issues with the medical marijuana.
“If we do this, we can’t put the genie back in the bottle,” he said. “We have to get it right and take our time.”
The city voted to allow medical marijuana sales in the city last year, and granted licenses to a pair of businesses. Thus far, there hasn’t been any progress in the construction of the proposed facilities, but the sight-plans have been submitted to Alpena’s planning commission.
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