Recreational and medical marijuana in surrounding cities impacts Meridian Township

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Although multiple towns outside Meridian Township have legalized recreational marijuana and moved forward opening dispensaries, the Meridian Township Board still has reservations about opening dispensaries for recreational sales.

            For MT to pass recreational sales, it would take a majority of the board to vote to opt in and reverse the previous 7 to 0 board vote to opt out of recreational marijuana sales in 2019, said Meridian Township Treasurer Phil Deschaine.

            Deschaine said he is against the legalization of recreational marijuana, mostly because of the image it would create for the township. He said MT is known for its excellent schools, vibrant neighborhoods, and superb public safety. With multiple dispensaries being built this reputation would be in jeopardy.

            “Because Meridian residents already have access to recreational marijuana from nearby communities, there is virtually no benefit from opening six or more recreational marijuana stores in the Township,” Deschaine said. 

            Much to Deschaine’s chagrin, in August 2021, residents gathered enough petition signatures to put the conversation of legalizing recreational marijuana on the ballot. As a result, Meridian Township voters will decide if the Township should permanently “opt out” of allowing dispensaries in the August 2022 election.

            Neighboring cities like Lansing and East Lansing have gone ahead with legalizing recreational marijuana, and business has been booming for dispensaries in this area, said George Torrez, the owner of a medical and recreational dispensary called Pincanna. Torrez said that the biggest obstacle for dispensaries is the stigma of marijuana. 

            “Our goal here is to educate,” Torrez said. “We want to make sure everyone knows what cannabis can do for them if they choose to use it for anything.”

            Torrez said that he makes sure their employees are properly trained. They are expected to know as much as they can about marijuana, so if any questions do arise, they can help guide customers through the purchase process and get them exactly what they are looking for. 

            Unlike Deschaine, Meridian Township Trustee Dan Opsommer supports adult-use marijuana. 

            “We have already vetted four retail stores we selected under the medical ordinance,” Opsommer said. “They were all approved unanimously by the Planning Commission and Township Board.”

            For Opsommer, he said there are three big factors in this policy decision. The first is allowing adults access to safe and tested products regulated by the state. Another benefit of this policy decision would be reduced access to youth. 

            “Peer-reviewed studies show that legal, regulated marketplaces reduce youth access by increasing the cost of the product and diminishing the illegal marketplace where youth have direct access,” said Opsommer.

            The third benefit of this decision would be improved access to medical marijuana for residents dealing with chronic pain and other ailments, Opsommer said. 

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