FRIDAY, Jan. 8 — Recreational marijuana could soon be en route to Meridian Township.
The township Board of Trustees plans to discuss the allowance of a limited number of recreational cannabis retailers within the township at its Feb. 16 meeting, said Supervisor Ron Styka. The plans could see pot shops licensed there before the end of the year.
“We’ll have a meeting that is just on recreational marijuana and what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it,” Styka said, noting the board has yet to decide on the fate of recreational pot shops after opting to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in 2019.
Next month’s discussion arrives after several medical marijuana facilities were awarded licenses in recent years, but have yet to actually launch any retail locations within the township. Styka said the ongoing market delay has been tied almost entirely to the licensees' inability to market recreational cannabis at those locations amid a declining number of medical marijuana patients.
And if the township doesn’t get started on allowing recreational marijuana this year, then the township could miss out on a potentially lucrative industry — including the tax revenues to go along with it, said Township Trustee Dan Opsommer. He asked this week for a discussion on recreational pot licensing to resume next month. Time is of the essence, he explained.
Allowing recreational marijuana is an easy choice. Deciding how many locations should be allowed to open warrants a deeper discussion, said Treasurer Phil Deschaine. Those questions are expected to be discussed within the next few months, he said.
“We need to take the time to find out how our community feels about it,” Deschaine said.. “There’s no question this community supported the legalization of recreational marijuana, but that’s not the same thing as saying we need twice as many stores as East Lansing. These are all questions that we'll have to consider as we continue to discuss this issue. It'll take some time."
Meridian Township residents voted in favor of legalizing cannabis for recreational use by a margin of more than 4,500 votes in 2018. Still, township officials spent a year deciding whether or not to allow medical retailers. Recreational licensing could take another.
Trustee Patricia Herring Jackson said the township has already put together an adequate infrastructure of oversight and regulation. And she’s hesitant to postpone the local industry with yet another round of public input before making some quick decisions.
“I don’t disagree with the calls for additional public input,” Herring Jackson added. “I am concerned about the tendency to put off and put off and continuing to put off the discussion with added public input.”
In the meantime,, the local medical industry is “essentially dying,” she said. In October 2019, Ingham County tracked 6,865 medical marijuana patients. By November 2020, that number had dwindled to 2,470 — a 64% customer base decrease in about one year.
And that dearth of medical patients has created some challenges for medical-only retail locations.
Marvin Karana, an attorney for DNVK 2, which was licensed for medical marijuana sales last year, urged the board to act quickly on recreational marijuana licensing in Meridian Township.
“Eventually, that number is going to continue to decline until there are no patients remaining in the state,” Karana told trustees at a recent meeting. “Opting in for adult use will spark new employment and new development in the township during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Check back for continued coverage as Meridian Township officials continue the discussion.