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IN: People Pack Niles Firehouse For Medical Pot Forum

Katelyn Baker

Well-Known Member
Niles – Nearly 200 people flooded into the Niles Fire Station Complex Thursday night for a forum about the potential of having medical marijuana businesses in the city.

Three people spoke against allowing such businesses in Niles, and 26 spoke in favor of allowing them. One speaker took a neutral stance.

Voicing his concerns, the Rev. Jeff Whittaker was the first public speaker at the forum.

"We don't want anyone to suffer. We want people to be healthy," said Whittaker, of Niles. "But as a pastor, I've also seen too many cases where medical marijuana has led to more complications in the family context.

"I'm also afraid that, as you look at other states across the nation, you see the citizens' toleration of medical (marijuana) become a toleration of recreational (marijuana use)," Whittaker added.

Several speakers later was Niles resident Nancy Johnson, who made an impassioned statement about what medical marijuana has meant for her. Johnson said she uses medical marijuana for her severe post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from domestic violence incidents, and her panic attacks.

"There are times I can't get out of bed and wash the dishes," Johnson said. "For me, medical marijuana has been a lifesaver. It allows me to get out of bed and do simple things. I agree that there needs to be rules and regulations so kids don't get their hands on it."

The forum, arranged by Niles government leaders, included an informational session led by City Manager Ric Huff. The city council could craft and consider a local ordinance on the issue at a later date. As of Thursday night, the matter was not on the agenda for council's next meeting on Feb. 27.

Local discussion and debate about potentially allowing medical cannabis-based businesses in Niles was spurred by a group of laws passed late last year by Michigan legislators.

Those laws legalized a variety of licensed medical marijuana businesses – such as retail dispensaries, and larger cannabis plant-growing and processing operations. The laws also legalize the sale of more potent marijuana oils and cannabis-infused foods for medicinal purposes.

But each local government across the state decides whether to allow any medical marijuana businesses in its community.

Among the other Michiana locations considering local ordinances on medical marijuana are Buchanan and Galien Township. Buchanan's city council is expected to vote on the issue at its Feb. 27 meeting. Galien Township trustees are likely to vote April 3 on a request for a special-use permit to operate a medical marijuana growing operation within township limits.

State and local governments could gain income from the medical marijuana industries through licensing fees and a 3 percent tax on the gross incomes of dispensaries. Local governments could also impose permit fees.

Even if a Michigan community decides to allow in its jurisdiction all or some of the medical cannabis businesses recently legalized by state law, anyone wanting to get into this industry in Michigan would need to seek state licensing. The state will begin accepting licensing applications this December.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker 420 MAGAZINE ®
Full Article: People Pack Niles Firehouse For Medical Pot Forum
Author: Landa Bagley
Contact: 574-235-6161
Photo Credit: Robert F. Bukaty
Website: South Bend Tribune
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