Citizens seek to overturn local marijuana ban

Marijuana in MI

SIDNEY TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Recreational marijuana will be back up for a vote in two Michigan communities where municipal officials opted out and citizens decided to put it on Tuesday’s ballot.

One is in Macomb County on the other side of the state. The other is in the small farming community of Sidney Township in Montcalm County.

Sidney Township officials opted out of marijuana sales and production, but Michigan’s recreational marijuana allows citizens to gather signatures and put the issue on the ballot.

“No doesn’t mean no anymore under this law,” said David Overholt, who has been at the forefront of the legalization effort in Michigan, has a business in Sydney Township and is a self-described pain in the side of township officials.

He only needed to get 55 signatures to get the issue on the ballot but he gathered 116 valid signatures.

“We’re only going to ask for recreational farming. That’s all we ask for. We didn’t ask for dispensaries, we didn’t ask for social clubs, we didn’t ask for events, processing, trucking,” Overholt said.

The ballot issue will ask for two farms of 500 or 2,000 plants each and an unlimited number of marijuana microbusinesses of up to 150 plants.

Overholt said the increase in property values and the additional taxpayers will help in a county that is struggling to fund priorities like libraries and law enforcement — which will also have funding requests on Tuesday’s ballot.

He pointed out that marijuana is trading for $3,000 to $4,000 a pound versus corn, which is at $3 to $4 per bushel.

“That’s why I’m so confused with our leaders who have so many people here unemployed and so many people that re doing this already. Why not put them in a position where their tax dollars would go help our community,” Overholt said. “We’re only asking for one simple thing: to be allowed to farm, participate in a state-licensed program and become legal business owners.”

Township officials are unanimously opposed to the ballot proposal. They say they are backed by the 2018 vote on legalizing recreational marijuana, which lost by 40 votes (534 yes to 574 no) in Sidney Township.

“We’ve been hectored over the years by one individual who wants to make Sidney Township his little drug czar. The township board has voted repeatedly. We’ve never had a vote that hasn’t been five to zero,” Trustee Jud Welder, a farmer and veteran, said.

Welder does not believe the agricultural community would benefit.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “This isn’t something that a farmer is going to grow. This is being grown in greenhouses, not on larger acreages, so the signs that you see saying, ‘Support recreational farming’ are a complete lie.”

Overholt said in addition to the farmers, there would be all the auxiliary services that go into securing and building the farm operations.

“This industry offers so much for so many people,” Overholt said.

“Marijuana has benefits. There are people who benefit from it all the time, but to have large-scale, industrial production of drugs in our little community might not be a good idea,” Welder said.

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