Cassopolis considers medical marijuana options

CASSOPOLIS — After months of discussion about medical marijuana in surrounding communities, the issue has finally made its way to Cassopolis.

At the village council’s workshop Monday evening, council members opened the floor to discussion about whether the council will opt in to allowing medical marijuana facilities within the village limits. The conversation about opting in started in November , after businesses approached the council about wanting to open medical marijuana operations in Cassopolis.

An opt-in vote would give the village the option to allow any or all of the following medical marijuana businesses within the limits of the municipality: growing operations, provisioning centers or dispensaries, processing facilities, safety compliance facilities and secure transportation facilities.

Though no decision was made on the issue Monday, many business leaders and community members spoke out about their feelings about medical marijuana, creating an emotional, tense atmosphere of raised voices, gavel banging and arguing among Cassopolis residents.

Many residents spoke about the concern about marijuana becoming more readily available to the children of Cassopolis, should a dispensary come to town. Others spoke about a concern that crime would increase should the village opt in.

Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz, who has been a vocal opponent of medical marijuana, spoke passionately to the village council asking them not to opt in, citing research that claims that in towns where medical marijuana facilities are housed have had spikes in crime and usage in children. He also pointed out that while medical marijuana is not prosecuted in the state of Michigan, it is still a federal crime.

“What kind of message do we want to send to our kids? Do we want to do something illegal in the hopes that we won’t be prosecuted by the feds?” Fitz asked. “That’s certainly not the example I want to set for my kids, my nieces and nephews and the kids in this community.”

Dr. Genevieve Lankowicz of the Cass Family Clinic also expressed a concern that there has been little study of medical marijuana and have been very few scientific studies that have shown the health benefits of marijuana.

However, not everyone who was at the meeting was opposed to bringing medical marijuana within the village limits.

Some, like Benton Harbor lawyer John Campbell, said that opting in would both create business for the village and allow the village to better regulate marijuana. Others, such as Cassopolis resident Dan Bumbalough, said the village should opt in to provide for the medical needs of its citizens.

Bumbalough, 22, suffers from PTSD. Prior to receiving a medical marijuana card, he said that he was plagued by nightmares and flashbacks, describing himself as not being able to function. Since he began using marijuana for medicinal purposes, Bumbalough said that he has once again been able to become a contributing member of society and has been able to retain a job.

“I cannot stress enough that this is a public service for the people of our community and for the people that need it,” he said. “We should not be passing ordinances for money. Money will come. It should be for the patients, by the patients.”

Clyde Prestley, who works at Natural Solutions, a medical marijuana clinic located on Bell Road in Niles, also spoke at the meeting, saying that he has seen first-hand the way medical marijuana has helped patients, and that medical marijuana patients do not follow the stereotype of people just looking to get high.

“Our average age of client is 55,” Prestley said. “If you think people from Cassopolis are not coming into our clinic, you are wrong.”

For the council’s part, members said they have not made a decision about whether to opt in and that much more discussion will follow before they make a decision.

Only council member Kim Parsons stated a definitive stance on the issue, saying that she is in favor of bringing medical marijuana facilities to Cassopolis based on research she has done which has pointed to positive health benefits for medical marijuana patients.

“I hope this does happen,” Parsons said of opting in.

Other members, such as Cynthia Jackson-Ash, said they were still formulating an opinion on the issue.

“We are just here asking questions tonight,” Jackson-Ash said Monday. “That’s all we are doing.”

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