Laingsburg moves to allow rec marijuana businesses

Laingsburg city council members discuss whether to allow recreational marijuana businesses in the city during a public hearing Monday at city hall.

LAINGSBURG — Following a brief public hearing Monday in which only two local residents spoke — both in support of recreational businesses — the city council voted 6-0 to establish an ordinance to allow recreational marijuana facilities.

According to the ordinance, the city will issue two licenses for processing, provisioning, secure transport and safety compliance. Approval of any businesses will await finalization of zoning rules now under consideration by the planning commission.

Businesses will be permitted in Laingsburg’s C-1 district, i.e. its downtown, and all applications must go before the city council for approval.

To operate a business in the city, an applicant must secure licensing through the state, a permit from the city under the marijuana facilities ordinance, as well as a special use permit issued by the council following the review and recommendation of the planning commission.

Laingsburg resident Tom Nemeth, who works as a secure transporter for Lansing-based Green Express Transport, said the city is taking a step in the right direction.

“Anything you can do to bring businesses into a small community like this is a good thing, as long as it’s done right,” Nemeth said. “(Marijuana business owners/operators) are all solid business people. The amount of money and funds and background checks that go into creating a new business are extensive. They are true professionals that are there to make improvements to whatever community they are a part of.”

The city council approved an ordinance allowing medical marijuana businesses Nov. 4. Under the medical ordinance, the city will issue up to two licenses each for processing, provisioning, secure transport and safety compliance.

In November 2018, voters in Michigan opted to legalize recreational marijuana — approximately 64 percent of voters in Laingsburg expressed support for the measure, according to Mayor Micheal Culpepper.

Among area municipalities, the village of Chesaning is the only one that previously voted to allow recreational businesses.

By allowing various forms of marijuana businesses, Culpepper believes the city will benefit financially.

“There’s a possibility that, if there’s enough money — which I think there would be over time — that might give us an opportunity to hire another officer to help with things around here…To give us just that added income to be able to do something like that, put it back into our police department or patrol cars, whatever we might need,” Culpepper said. “In the long run, I think this is taking care of a need that people have said they want. They legalized it, 64 percent of the people said they wanted it here in this city, and so it’s an outcry that they want the business to exist.”

Clerk/Treasurer Paula Willoughby noted the city hasn’t received any negative feedback from residents regarding marijuana facilities so far, but many have instead pointed to the medical benefits of marijuana usage.

Like Culpepper, Willoughby believes welcoming the marijuana industry will boost the city economically.

“We’re hopeful that we can tap into some state dollars, you know, and a lot of the funding that we could get there we could use to improve our downtown and fill in storefronts,” Willoughby said. “It’s a really good thing for our downtown. If we fill one vacant store and we improve our revenue through the passage of this ordinance then we’ve done our job.”

The planning commission is currently working on the zoning regulations dictating location, setbacks and other dimensional requirements for each type of business, both on the medical and the recreational side, according to Willoughby.

The planning commission will conduct a public hearing to consider an amendment to the city’s zoning ordinance at 7 p.m. Dec. 16, at city hall, she said.

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