HOLTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A small town in northern Muskegon County is divided over whether medical marijuana facilities should be allowed.
It is an argument that will be decided at the polls on Tuesday.
On its face, a straightforward question will be coming before voters in Holton Township — should medical marijuana be allowed in the commercial and agricultural zones?
But as it is with everything concerning legalized marijuana, there is a lot more than meets the eye.
The proposal has both supporters and critics.
“Our town doesn’t need to see these huge amounts of people coming in and out and these facilities coming in,” said Malinda Reese Pego, a former Republican precinct delegate.
Pego says the approval was done without most people knowing and she decided to gather signatures to put the zoning regulations on the ballot in the township of 2,500.
“Our town is crumbling. We’re never going to get this opportunity again to have a multi-million-dollar facility come to our town and bring the taxes and licensing fees that come with that,” said Angel Coon, a businesswoman medical marijuana patient.
Coon said the township board had to be convinced to allow medical marijuana facilities, as many as 20 licenses.
“We feel the people need to have the right to come to this conclusion, to decide whether we should have these in our township or not,” Pego said. “The truth is we don’t know. There are so many unknowns because it is so new to Michigan.”
Coon says the zoning keeps facilities out of neighborhoods and away from schools.
Even if the zoning regulations are approved, Coon says the individual facilities still must be approved by the planning commission, which requires notice to people nearby and public hearings.
“There is restrictive zoning that had to be in which I’m OK with. I have children on the school zone, too,” Coon said. “If you look through our town when you drive in here, I mean, storefronts that are abandoned, our roads are deteriorating, not much going on here.”
The zoning would allow for 23 facilities, which includes growing, processing and transport. Three of the licenses would be for dispensaries.
There would be a $5,000 annual fee paid by all the centers in addition to the tax revenues are generated by sales.
“The tax revenue that’s going to come in is going to be so minimal,” Pego said. “We have 22 miles of dirt roads in our township, one grading for one road is $40,000. That’s not an answer to our roads.”
Pego says the applicants so far are from out of town, including Lansing and Chicago.
“We already have a lot of drug problems, I don’t think we need to invite more. We don’t have a police force here,” Pego said, adding that state troopers out of Hart and the Muskegon County Sheriff’s deputies patrol the township.
But Coon points out that marijuana is legal in Michigan and many people see medical benefits.
“I’m going to Nunica, which is a 30-40 minute drive and spending hundreds of dollars in that township when I could be spending that money right here in my own township,” Coon said.
She said having facilities sitting on M-120 which goes between Muskegon and Fremont will make them attractive money makers.
24 Hour News 8 reached out to Township Supervisor Alan Jager for an interview, but he didn’t respond for a request for comment.
Voters can read the proposal online.