Members the Big Rapids City Commission and the Big Rapids Township Board of Trustees are still digesting a massive amount of information regarding the ramifications of Michigan's new medical marijuana laws. At a special combined meeting on Wednesday, officials heard from a number of presenters both for and against it.
Oasis Wellness Center spokesperson Kevin Chang noted that medical marijuana is big business whether you are like it or not.
“Medical marijuana has become a budding billion dollar industry in the United States. According to CNBC, the polling finds 89 percent of America supports medicinal marijuana nationwide,” he says.
Oasis hopes to open a number of marijuana provisioning centers in Michigan once licenses are allowed under the new law at the end of the year.
Shades of Green Consulting LLC advocates for a number of clients and works with Michigan municipalities on the state's 2016 legislation on medical marijuana. Spokesperson Kimberly Yob says her firm urges officials to keep in mind that the new laws are supposed to help people.
“What we like to stress to municipalities, if you are considering opting in and having discussions, to take a look at the purpose of this. It is medical marijuana, this is not recreational marijuana.”
Both Chang and Yob noted a “wild west” atmosphere for medical marijuana under the older laws passed in 2008 and the news laws are meant to bring control, accountability, and patient safety to the industry.
However, Big Rapids Department of Public Safety Director Jim Eddiner says that even medical marijuana has a stigma attached to it.
“I don't care if you put medicinal, magic, or any other word in front of marijuana, it is still associated with deviance. Neither you or I made that a reality, but it is clearly associated with society's under-culture.”
Mecosta Count Prosecutor Brian Thiede argued strongly against having medicinal marijuana facilities in the county noting that, aside from a potential rise in criminal activity, doing so may put the City and the Township in trouble with federal law enforcement.
“From a legal point of view, I just want to tell you this is all illegal federally,” he says.
City Commissioner Tom Hogenson may have summed up the presentations for many of those in attendance when he said,
“This whole discussion, not just tonight but looking at all this, leaves me with as many questions as it does answers.”
Hogenson added that although a lot of information was presented on the pros and cons of medical marijuana from a legal, law enforcement, and business point of view, he would like to hear from those that have benefited from medical marijuana as well.