GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Most suburban municipalities — villages, townships and cities — are saying no thanks to recreational marijuana sales and businesses in their communities.
In Kent County, 55 percent of voters approved Proposal 1, which decriminalized the use and possession of marijuana and allowed for eventual production and sales.
In Ottawa County, 58 percent of voters said no.
But regardless of the votes, most municipal leaders have been moving forward to opt out of having marijuana businesses.
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“I don’t want marijuana in my community, I don’t want to sell it, I don’t want to see it, I don’t want to smell it. You want to do it in the basement of your house with your medical marijuana card that’s your business,” was the sentiment of Hudsonville Mayor Mark Northrup where his constituents rejected Proposal 1 by nearly two to one.
Urban leaders in Grand Rapids have opted in for the marijuana industry, while Kalamazoo and Muskegon are weighing their options.
But in communities like Kentwood, Wyoming, Sparta and Walker — where voters approved the marijuana initiative — those cities also moved quickly to opt out.
But in the quant city of 4,000, Lowell city leaders have decided to stay in the game when it comes to marijuana sales and production.
“They were very well educated throughout the entire process and they listened to both sides of the argument for and against doing it,” Lowell City Manager Michael Burns said, speaking about his city council.
In Lowell, voters approved Proposal 1 with 59 percent of the vote — 984 yes to 689 no.
“At the end of the day they felt that it was in the best interests for the city to opt in.” Burns said. “It’s not about taxation because we don’t believe we’re going to see a significant windfall from it.”
Now the city will have to make some decisions about how many stores they will have and where they will go as well as where the production facilities would be allowed.
“I sense the downtown is probably not going to be where they want to allow this,” Burns said.
Burns said the council felt it was better to face the reality and move to control how these businesses came to the area.
“It really remains to be seen regarding how this is going to go. I mean, is it different than alcohol? I’m not so sure, I really don’t know the answer,” he said.
The city will be able to have zoning regulations that determine how the businesses look and how they operate.
“The council felt was the fact that it was apparent to them that there was a need in the area for this and the council took the position that ‘well, we might as well move forward and allow it,” Burns said.
In Ottawa County, it is near unanimous that marijuana sales will be banned — with one exception.
Crockery Township, a community of 4,400 between Spring Lake and Coopersville, is deciding to wait and see.
Leon Stille is the township supervisor and a former state representative and senator who is used to reading the fine print of legislation and he determined that municipalities have until the end of 2019 to decide — a contention backed up by those who actually wrote the proposal.
Every other municipality in Ottawa County has opted out but Stille said they want to see how everything shakes out.
Crockery, where 51 percent of voters approved Prop. 1, is home to a medical marijuana dispensary and Stille says there has been no problems.
"We've not had one person come to a meeting and say 'why are you doing this?' Actually, we have had maybe a half-a-dozen come in to voice support,” Stille tole 24 Hour News 8 earlier this year.
Lowell’s elected officials have not gotten any negative feedback from citizens about its position adopted in November, according to the city manager.
“We got more complaints on the bio-digester, put it that way,” Burns said.
Of course, voters in any of these municipalities can gather petition signatures to put the issue of marijuana businesses on the ballot and override their elected leaders.
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