The Caro City Council voted Aug. 5 to get the ball rolling on potential medical marijuana facilities within city limits.
Caro city manager Michael Silverman gave the council two options – to allow the city to begin working with an attorney on adopting a medical marijuana ordinance, or to do nothing on the issue of medical marijuana, and therefore stopping the process of allowing facilities within Caro.
The Caro voted 5-2 to begin the process which could lead to medical marijuana facilities in Caro, with Mayor Joe Greene and council members Tisha Jones-Holubec, Bob Essenmacher, Megan Ewald and Don Hall voting yes, and council members Charlotte Kish and Brian Rickwalt voting no.
“I’m not for or against it,” Hall said. “I’m here for the people and the people voted yes for it.”
Hall’s comment is in reference to 2018 Michigan Proposal 18-1, which asked state residents to vote for or against legalization of recreational marijuana, which carries different regulations than medical marijuana. While most Tuscola County communities voted no for recreational marijuana legalization, Caro residents voted yes 898-793.
There are five types of facilities associated with medical marijuana – grower, processor (converts the product to a usable form), secure transporter (stores and transports the product), provisioning center (which sells the product) and safety compliance facility (to test the product). A single company often oversees each type facility (with the exception of a testing facility) as one business.
Following completion of an ordinance, all five types of facilities would be allowed in Caro.
Before the city council began in earnest, there was an about-40-minute public-comment period in which residents spoke for and against medical marijuana facilities.
“I’m here to speak in favor of the medical marijuana and encourage the council to vote to work with your attorney and authorize an ordinance because of the jobs it brings our community and the tax breaks it brings to our community,” said resident Mark Volmer.
Vollmer, a local farmer, told the council he has spoken to officials who would be interested in bringing a medical marijuana business to Caro.
“A company approached us and stated he would start out with a minimum of 50 new jobs, and at full capacity, 100 new jobs,” Vollmer said. “It would be local residents, and starting pay with no skill right out of high school would be double the minimum wage with a full benefit package.”
Also at the council meeting were Caro Police Chief Brian Newcomb and Caro Sheriff Glen Skrent.
“I’m not going to get into a debate on the good or evil of marijuana,” Newcomb said. “But obviously as law enforcement officers, Sheriff Skrent and I don’t support it.”
Newcomb told the council that he and Tuscola County Prosecutor Mark Reene lobbied against recreational marijuana, prior to the 2018 election. Newcomb and Reene presented information on the negative effect recreational marijuana has had in the states that have legalized it, especially in Colorado, the first state to do so.
Skrent voiced his concern about how an increase in marijuana locally could become taxing for law enforcement, especially while keeping the roads safe.
“Marijuana is not the root of all evil at all, but I’ve been sheriff for four years and with this department for 42,” Skrent said. “And I see the big picture. Yeah, you can smoke a joint at home and you’re OK. And you can drink a six pack (of beer) at home. But from my end, people don’t do that. They are driving under the influence of marijuana.”
Vollmer said that whether or not the council approved medical marijuana, the using of marijuana would still be legal because of the passing of Proposal 18-1.
“People get tremendous medical benefits from marijuana, and whether or not the city opts in, people have a legal right to use the product within your jurisdiction,” he said. “The only thing the city council can do is decide whether or not to allow a business within the community to have commercial activity. Or are you going to require your citizens to go to a neighboring town to engage in that activity?”
The council also:
• Asked contractors to submit bids for a new Caro Police Department building which would be adjacent to the Caro Municipal building and fire department, 317 S. State St. The deadline for bids is Sept. 2.
• Tabled for now the discussion of where to place a “Welcome to Caro” sign on M-24 south of town. Another sign, located west of Caro on M-81, is also being constructed.
• Voted to hire Sara Savage as clerk/treasurer. Savage had been working as the city’s interim clerk/manager.
• Accepted the resignation of Evan Osentoski from the city’s board of review and planning commission. Osentoski recently moved outside city limits.
• Voted to approve a $5,000 raise – from $75,000 to $80,000 – for Silverman following his first year as city manager.
John Schneider is editor of The Advertiser. He can be reached at email@example.com.