More than 40 Hillsdale residents voiced their opinions about the possibility of medical marijuana dispensaries coming to the City of Hillsdale during a public hearing at a city council meeting on Tuesday.
According to the meeting’s running tally, about 76 percent spoke against the proposal while 24 percent spoke in favor.
Although medicinal marijuana has been legal in Michigan since 2008, the city has restricted its availability from storefronts. After the state provided an educational meeting in March intended to teach city employees on how to approach the issue, rumors began spreading that the city would allow pot shops to open in downtown Hillsdale. The city council will soon vote on whether to institute state allowances regarding medical marijuana in the city.
Community opinion on the issue was divided from the start. Those in favor argue that storefront availability of medical marijuana will bring much-needed business to Hillsdale. Among those are city council candidates Dennis Wainscott and Penny Swan, both of whom spoke at the public hearing.
“We need the business, so let’s step outside of our comfort zone and go for it,” Swan said.
The business side of the marijuana question, however, has put local entrepreneur Thomas Defer in a precarious position. Earlier this year, Defer bought a building on Industrial Drive in anticipation of the city allowing for a grow facility in conjunction with the opening of medical marijuana shops.
Speaking at the hearing, Defer said he hopes the initiatives pass so that he can provide business to the town. Defer appealed to those in opposition, saying he’s interested in making money by selling his product elsewhere in the state.
“We’re not looking to provide medical marijuana as a storefront society,” he said. “We’re looking to grow marijuana for Lansing and let Lansing decide where it gets shipped to.”
Local resident Jon Smith said this position does not follow logically.
“If we’ve already decided that this is not good for our community, then why would you put it on another community?” he said.
Others in favor cited medical needs, saying the healing power CBD and the high from THC — the two major chemical compounds in marijuana — have helped them with a battery of medical problems in ways that prescription pills like Oxycotin could not.
“Medical marijuana really did save my life,” local resident Kelly Cook said. “Before it, I missed my son’s eighth grade graduation because I was hallucinating coming off of Symbalta. And I had only been on Symbalta for a week.”
Those opposed to medical marijuana stores cited several reasons for the drug to be kept out of Hillsdale.
Quoting the “Journal of Clinical and Psychological Science,” Kelly Scott Franklin, Hillsdale resident and professor of English, said people who use medical marijuana tend to experience “downward socioeconomic mobility, more financial difficulties, workplace problems, and relationship conflict in early mid life.”
“I think the idea that this would be economically sound in a place that already suffers from poverty is quite problematic,” he said.
Other residents cited worries that the city would only make storefront marijuana available because it appeared to be a quick fix to the city’s ongoing economic problem.
“If making money is the sole purpose, that’s wrong,” local resident Berna Bailey said. “If it’s to help people out, then that’s another issue.”
In keeping with its opening resolution, the council did not make a decision on the matter. According to Bell, the council will discuss storefront medical marijuana at its next meeting on Sept. 18.