Port Huron voters approve 2nd marijuana ballot proposal
Port Huron voters passed the city’s second marijuana ballot proposal in a year on Tuesday with 1,588 in favor and 1,140 against.
That’s according to unofficial results from the city. The proposal amends the measure originally OK’d by voters in November with language to repeal recreational licenses awarded by the city earlier this year
But what happens next remains unclear.
The outside group Progress for Michigan 2020 initiated both proposals. The original proposal replaced rules exclusive to adult-use marijuana originally adopted by City Council that September, legalizing both recreational and medical businesses instead.
After a wave of marijuana applications for both kinds of facilities early this year, the city was met with several lawsuits contesting results of provisional licensees.
Representatives from Progress for Michigan have said Tuesday’s proposal was aimed to put marijuana patients first in reprioritizing licenses for medical facilities. They also said it was aimed to prevent litigation.
Moving forward, officials have said they aren’t convinced action is avoidable in courts either way. Multiple opponents involved in the marijuana industry have criticized Progress for Michigan’s methods to control marijuana rules in Port Huron for specific licensees and said they also expected to take court action if Tuesday’s proposal was successful.
As of this spring, a circuit court judge also pressed pause on formal awarding of provisional licenses until complaints against the city were addressed. On Tuesday, City Manager James Freed said he wouldn’t expect final marijuana licensure for at least a couple of years because of continued legal challenges.
When asked about Tuesday’s results, Progress for Michigan spokesman Sam Pernick said, “This election sends a clear message that the people of Port Huron are tired of the delays, lawsuits, and red tape preventing medical marijuana patients from getting access to the medicine that they need. We are extremely grateful to everyone who voted yes to help those patients with epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, cancer, and other critical medical conditions that medical marijuana provides relief for.”
As of mid-Tuesday afternoon, City Clerk Cyndee Jonseck said voter turnout for the special election was “remarkably low, and by Tuesday night, Freed said it was around 13.4%. Jonseck said via email, “We have 2,051 absentee ballots returned for processing” roughly five hours before polls were set to close.
Progress for Michigan’s previous set of rules in Port Huron addressed 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.
Tuesday’s proposal does the following:
- 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.
Contact Jackie Smith at (810) 989-6270 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @Jackie20Smith.