GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — There’s a contentious debate underway in Grand Haven over allowing recreational marijuana sales. The issue is causing some heated meetings as it divides the Grand Haven City Council. 

Mayor Cathy McNally has been in charge for just a few months, and this topic has dominated her tenure. She opposes allowing sales in the city. 

“What I am concerned about is if we bring sales into our community in any significant way, we will see much more of it in public spaces: on our beach, our riverfront, in our downtown area,” McNally said.

She’s also worried about more teens using the drug. 

“I’ve watched families been harmed that I personally know over the years, and there are others out there because I’m getting emails from many that say, ‘Thank you for saying this, my son is in trouble,’” McNally said. 

At one point during the city council meeting on Feb. 7, one of McNally’s sisters spoke up in her defense, telling three city council members, “Shame is cast on all of you.” 

One of those members, Ryan Cummins, said he hasn’t made a decision yet. But in response to McNally’s concerns about the drug being used on beaches, he said using marijuana in public is against the law. He also said people will be able to get marijuana regardless of the city’s decision.

“Even if we don’t allow recreational sales of marijuana in Grand Haven, there’s other recreational shops in West Michigan,” Cummins said. “It’s legal for folks to use, possess and have it delivered to their homes.”

When Michigan legalized it in 2018, a majority of voters in Grand Haven were in favor. Cummins said the measure allowed marijuana to be grown in people’s homes.

“If folks were okay with folks growing marijuana in their homes, would they not be okay with regulated retail sales in the city?” Cummins said. 

The mayor said most cities across the state don’t allow sales, so Grand Haven shouldn’t either.

“I think it would be premature if 80% of the other communities in Michigan say, ‘We are not ready to do this for good and solid reason,’” McNally said. “I’m not sure why we would want to see Grand Haven on the front end of the marijuana industry expansion.”

On the other hand, Cummins brings up this question: “Should a person have the right and freedom to purchase a legal product in their own community?”

It’s unclear how many dispensaries could open in the city. Cummins said they’re seeking a legal opinion on potentially limiting the number of shops. 

The City Council has already voted, 3-2, to ask the planning commission to provide a recommendation on the issue by April 18. Cummins voted for that, and McNally voted against it. There’s no timeline for a final vote, but both sides agree the process shouldn’t be rushed.