MI: Decision On Benton Harbor Medical Marijuana Pushed Back

Photo Credit: Don Campbell

Supporters of medical marijuana facilities in Benton Harbor will to have to wait a little longer to learn where they will be allowed in the city.

Benton Harbor planning commissioners initially said they wanted to have suggested changes to the city’s zoning ordinance ready in time for the City Commission’s first meeting in February, which is Monday.

But City Manager Darwin Watson said the earliest planning commissioners will consider the proposed changes is at their next regular meeting, which is at 1 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 200 E. Wall St.

He said Feb. 19 is the earliest city commissioners will receive the recommendations unless they call a special meeting.

“I’m disappointed, but we’ve got to do it right,” City Commissioner Juanita Henry, who is on the Planning Commission, said when contacted by telephone after the meeting.

The changes are needed because the medical marijuana ordinance city commissioners passed in December includes several definitions not in the city’s zoning ordinance.

“We’re going to look at quite a few changes to the ordinance as well as adjusting our zoning,” Henry said.

The city’s ordinance allows 25 medical marijuana facilities, including 10 growers, seven processors, two provisioning centers, three secure transporters and three safety compliance facilities. Planning commissioners held public hearings Jan. 23 and 30 to hear input on where the five types of medical marijuana facilities should be located.

Rich Hensel, vice chairman of the Planning Commission, said planning commissioners can’t conduct business during public hearings.

“At our regular meeting, we will be able to look at what plan to recommend,” he said when contacted by phone after the meeting. “Hopefully, we will be able to come to a decision as a group.”

He said proposed changes to the city’s zoning ordinance will need to comply with state statutes and the city’s ordinance.

Building Official Ted Hanson is in charge of drafting the proposed changes for the planning commission, city officials said.

Planning Commissioner Emma Kinnard said she resigned at the Jan. 30 public hearing because she doesn’t want medical marijuana facilities in the city at all.

“It’s just not worth my time, wasting on something that I don’t think will benefit the city,” she said when reached by phone after the meeting. “… The streets are already filled with marijuana. We’re looking for something better for our youth.”

She said she will be at Tuesday’s Planning Commission meeting as a spectator, not a member.