Marijuana businesses are already legal in Port Huron, but a ballot measure on tap for a special election Tuesday is asking city voters to amend a proposal approved last year.
The outside ballot group Progress for Michigan 2020 first put through a proposal approved by voters in November that legalized a system to allow both recreational and medical marijuana businesses. That proposal replaced a measure first adopted by City Council earlier that fall.
The city clerk’s office received applications for more than 80 licenses and awarded provisional licenses for several establishments in February before a circuit court judge pressed pause on the process this spring amid several lawsuits filed against the city challenging results.
Representatives from Progress for Michigan have said that the Aug. 3 proposal is aimed to move medical marijuana forward and avoid ongoing court battles. However, opponents of the change claim it may only lead to further litigation and delay access to marijuana for local residents.
City Clerk Cyndee Jonseck said the special election is costing the city approximately $20,000.
She said the deadline to receive a ballot by mail for absentees was 5 p.m. Friday, and that her office would be additionally open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday to receive absentee voters in-person. Precincts will be open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on election day.
Progress for Michigan’s existing set of rules in Port Huron address licensees for both retail and provisioning center marijuana shops, grow and processing operations, designated consumption businesses and microbusinesses, where marijuana could be cultivated and sold on-site similar to breweries.
If successful, the Aug. 3 ballot proposal would:
- Prohibit the city from awarding adult-use marijuana licenses under the state’s recreational law until at least three medical licenses are awarded for provisioning centers
- Void all provisional licenses already awarded for retail shops and marijuana consumption establishments
- Leave provisional licenses already issued for medical marijuana facilities unaffected
Additionally, the measure repeals the scoring system for recreational pot businesses and gives the city 15 days after provisioning licenses are awarded to begin accepting applications for other establishments. It would require “a competitive process” but provides no criteria for prioritizing proposals.
It also repeals a section of the 2020 ballot ordinance that said there could be no more than seven unique business addresses for retailers, provisioning centers and designated consumption establishments.
In its defense of lawsuits contesting scoring results against the city, officials have maintained provisional licensees were named according to the rules first outlined by Progress for Michigan.
The group has not addressed the rules being challenged in court.
Marijuana operators speak out
Comment from Progress for Michigan spokesman Sam Pernick was not immediately available as of Thursday afternoon. Previously, he said their number-one focus was to ensure patients have access to medical marijuana above who gets what license.
Mailers, canvassers and campaign signs have also promoted the group’s focus on medical marijuana before recreational.
Still, multiple operators hoping to open a marijuana business in Port Huron said they’re opposed to the latest proposal this week.
The Exquisite Cannabis Company, whose owner Mark Aubrey received provisional licensing for a marijuana shop at 1033 River St., has circulated mailers against the outside group’s election effort as part of a “Hell No to Proposal One” campaign. Earlier this month, Aubrey said he intended to challenge the Aug. 3 measure in court.
Co-operators Mark Abraham, Aron Anglebrant and Dr. Cory Zieger — the only marijuana applicants who live in the Port Huron area and have plans to start a business at the Seaway Terminal — have also been vocal against it.
On Wednesday, Abraham said he thought voting yes would only “keep the control of cannabis in other people’s hands that are not from St. Clair County,” and Zieger said he thought Progress for Michigan’s efforts had “rigged the application process to favor” certain licensees the group represents.
For more on the proposal and election, visit www.porthuron.org.
Contact Jackie Smith at (810) 989-6270 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @Jackie20Smith.