Budding Changes: Michigan’s Cannabis Growth and Ohio’s Pending Decision

Posted Nov 6, 2023 on wane.com

COLDWATER, Mich. (WANE) — The interchange of Interstate 69 and U.S. 12 at the eastern edge of Coldwater, Michigan offers most of the businesses and amenities highway checkpoints near cities usually offer.

Weary drivers can grab a cup of joe at Biggby Coffee, and local residents can grab groceries at either an ALDI or a Walmart.

The interchange is also densely populated with marijuana dispensaries, representing an industry that has exploded in Michigan in the five years since its statewide legalization.

Marijuana dispensaries could soon become a common sight in neighboring Ohio as residents prepare to vote on a proposed statute that would make Ohio the latest state to legalize recreational marijuana.

Over the summer, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) obtained enough signatures to get the proposed statute, which would enact Chapter 3780 of the Ohio Revised Code, on the Nov. 7 ballot.

Dubbed Issue 2, the statute needs a simple majority vote to pass.

The statute, which can be found in its entirety on the Ohio Secretary of State’s website, has spawned arguments from those in favor of and against legalizing recreational marijuana.Recreational marijuana in Ohio: Know before you vote

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine spoke with WANE 15 Friday and reiterated that he is opposed to legalizing recreational marijuana.

“I think it really would be a mistake for us to pass recreational marijuana,” DeWine said. “We already have on the books medical marijuana; I think that’s fine, and it provides help to people, but to go to recreational marijuana, I think we need to look at what other states have been doing.”DeWine said he is worried legalizing recreational marijuana would cause Ohio to see an increase in residents driving under the influence, children being hospitalized for accidental overdoses and a culture shift that would be detrimental to Ohioans.

On the other hand, the CRMLA states the statute would benefit Ohio by generating hundreds of millions of dollars while also providing citizens expanded access to use marijuana for medical reasons.

Economic Growth and New Issues in Michigan

North of Ohio, Michigan has been one of the few Midwest states to legalize recreational marijuana after a majority of residents voted in favor of it in 2018.

Ahead of the election, WANE 15 visited Coldwater which is roughly 30 minutes north of Ohio and around 15 minutes away from northeast Indiana, to see how legalized marijuana has affected the community.

Joe Scheid, director of Public Safety with the City of Coldwater, said the topic did not cause any major issues in the community, but there were plenty of people who leaned both ways.

“In our community, just like any community, it can be a little bit polarizing,” Scheid said. “We had some people that were very much pro-marijuana and were very supportive of it, and we had other portions of our community that were not supportive of it.”

When Michigan counties voted on statewide legalization in November 2018, Branch County, where Coldwater resides, voted against the proposal with 52.65% of the vote going against it.

However, three of Coldwater’s four precincts voted in favor of the proposal, and once recreational marijuana became legal statewide, the City of Coldwater eventually decided to allow it within city limits with some stipulations.

“When the City of Coldwater decided to opt in, there was some discussion of whether we should allow it downtown versus on the east side of our community, which is considered more of a commercial district,” Scheid said.

Scheid said city officials decided to keep the marijuana dispensaries in the city’s commercial district so customers would have easier access with I-69 and downtown Coldwater could keep its “small, quaint downtown feeling.”

With around a dozen marijuana dispensaries now stationed on the east side of Coldwater, county officials and dispensary employees both said the economic changes in the area have been for the better.

Joshua Heaney, store manager at Sapura’s Coldwater location, said he has seen the city grow considerably since working at Sapura.

“Coldwater was considered a smaller town and now you have cannabis coming in, but now I also see them building high-rise apartments down the road and I see new businesses coming in as well,” Heaney said. “It’s awesome to see that cannabis can transform some of these small towns into these big, booming epicenters.”

Coldwater City Manager Keith Baker, who also serves as president of the Branch County Economic Growth Alliance, also said the dispensaries have aided economic growth in the last few years.

“We’ve seen property value rise [and] we’ve seen the dispensaries take rundown buildings and renovate them,” Baker said.

Baker said the City of Coldwater receives financial distributions from the State of Michigan each March related to revenue sales from Coldwater’s dispensaries.

The City of Coldwater has only received two distributions so far, but Baker said Coldwater City Council has put the money toward park and recreation projects, and Branch County also receives distributions that have been used for the county’s budget to offset other costs.

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