LETTER: Berrien County’s share of cannabis tax revenue is disproportionate to level of support
Published 8:30 am Monday, March 28, 2022
I’m writing as a Berrien County taxpayer, and more specifically, as a City of Buchanan resident.
In November 2018, Michigan voters approved the legalization of adult cannabis use by a referendum margin of 56 to 44. A few lower income cities opted into the program recognizing its potential for economic development, permit revenue, and excise tax participation. These cities were Benton Harbor, Niles and Buchanan.
Last year, Niles and Buchanan received $56,002 and $84,004 respectively. Berrien County, not because of any support for this industry or these communities, received $140,006.
This year the stakes are much higher. Benton Harbor joined the list of opt-in communities. The excise tax generated by dispensaries: Benton Harbor $56,453, Niles $169,360, and Buchanan $282,267. Berrien County, for doing nothing, is receiving $508,081.
The Berrien County Board of Commissioners — particularly Mac Elliott, Mamie Yarbrough, and Michael Majerek — need to begin a dialogue with the cities in their districts that have generated this windfall for the county. The money should be spent within these cities — period. Had the County and its leaders taken an active role in the development of this industry, there might be an argument to support countywide use of the funds. They didn’t and there isn’t.
For the county commissioners from areas considering opting in or with substantial grow or processing facilities planned, please consider the precedent you will set as you act on this question of an appropriate distribution of excise tax revenue.