Local businesses hope to bring marijuana industry to Niles Charter Township

Published 4:09 pm Thursday, June 16, 2022

NILES CHARTER TOWNSHIP — A local business owner is on a quest to bring the marijuana industry to Niles Charter Township.

Maggie Patterson, owner of Doggy Drive-Thru, 2639 S. 3rd St., Niles, has been hard at work rounding up signatures for an initiative in favor of allowing marijuana establishments to set up shop within Niles Charter Township borders.

In May 2019, the township voted unanimously to opt out of the recreational marijuana business. Patterson needs 250 signatures from township residents in order for the initiative to be placed on the November ballot. Currently, she has more than 250 signatures but she is oversigning to ensure that enough of them come from Niles Charter Township residents. 

Readers residing in Niles Charter Township can sign the petition at one of five locations:

  • Doggy Drive-Thru
  • Flow-N-Grow, 2706 S. 11th St., Niles
  • Birds Eye View, 3135 S. 11th St., Niles
  • Bertrand Auto Parts, 1109 E. Bertrand Rd., Niles
  • Lush Lighting, 1950 S. 11th St., Niles

In the years since the township opted out, Patterson has watched surrounding municipalities reap the benefits of opting in to marijuana.

The City of Niles, Buchanan, Cassopolis, Edwardsburg, Berrien County and Cass County were among the 163 municipalities statewide that received payments from the Marihuana Regulation Fund in March. Each eligible municipality and county received more than $56,400 for every licensed retail store and microbusiness located within its jurisdiction.

The distribution breakdown for local municipalities and counties is as follows:

  • Buchanan: Number of licenses – five; city distributions – $282,267.20
  • Cassopolis: Licenses – two; village distributions – $112,906.88
  • Edwardsburg: Licenses – two; village distributions – $112,906.88
  • City of Niles: Licenses – three; city distributions – $169,360.32
  • Berrien County: Licenses – nine; county distributions – $508,080.96
  • Cass County: Licenses – four; county distributions – $225,813.76

Patterson is taking efforts to ensure that the township gets a piece of the pie in the future.

“I support our community getting $56,000 per retail license. That’s what it is about,” she said. “Niles Township’s border is one block away from two city-licensed Marijuana retail shops. At ReLeaf on Terminal Road, one street separates Niles Township from where the city decided to put one. They put them as close to Niles Township as they could. Now we’re missing out on it. If (township residents) want money for K-12 schools or for the roads, get in here and sign.”

While the Niles Charter Township Board of Trustees’ position on the topic has not changed, the township board of trustees will not oppose Patterson’s efforts to force a change.

“At the present time, our position is to let the citizens decide,” said Niles Charter Township Clerk Terry Eull. “(Patterson) has every right to this. If it passes, we will abide by the consequences and move forward from there.”

Community support

Lush Lighting owner Matthew Johnson knows how much Niles Township could benefit from allowing marijuana businesses.

The approval of Proposal 1, which legalized adult-use marijuana, has brought an influx of home growers to Lush Lighting the past three years. With the business continuing to grow, Johnson anticipates outgrowing his current space within the next few years.

“As long as nothing changes in the cannabis space, I see us trending upward,” he said. “There’s no reason for us to go backwards unless something were to happen where people won’t be allowed to grow anymore. That’s the only thing that would really slow us down at this point.”

Johnson is hopeful that, one way or another, Niles Charter Township will welcome marijuana businesses into its borders.

“Personally, I think it’s good for the community,” he said. “Not just having safe access to cannabis but also the revenue that comes from it. The township could really benefit from the shared revenue from the taxing of cannabis. (Niles} I believe just got a nice-sized check, Buchanan’s doing really well. The township could use that money for reinvesting too because I like to see them participate and get passionate, too.”

Johnson believes the border it shares with Indiana, a state that has not opted in to marijuana, would offer prime real estate for marijuana businesses looking to attract Indiana residents.

“Let’s, let’s not beat around the bush. The reason that cannabis is doing well in Niles is because it’s not legal in Indiana,” Johnson said. “If Indiana goes legal, the lure to bring consumers to Niles is gone because now, they can just get it in their own town. As long as Indiana stays on that side of the fence, then those people are actually going to come to our town and to spend money here, which is good for us. The township is missing that opportunity. 

“When Indiana did not allow liquor sales on Sunday, there were businesses in Michigan right on the borders that survived on that one day a week. It made them enough money to make a living so if the township waits too long, that same opportunity will go away.”

Looking ahead

While the journey has been bumpy, Patterson is seeing her hard work bear fruit. Patterson said that on Wednesday, June 3, Michigan AFL-CIO, the state’s largest labor federation, endorsed Patterson’s ordinance. 

“I’ve been knocking on doors, hanging out here with my signs and waving flags at people to get them to pull in,” she said. “I need people to canvas. Nobody is gathering signatures with me, yet.”

As the Aug. 2 signature deadline approaches, Patterson encourages her community to sign the petition.

“Mariijuana businesses are within 100 feet of Niles Township already,” she said. “Nothing is going to change, it’s just that we’re going to get access to the money. Marijuana is here whether you want it or not.”

“The township has to seize the moment and the moment is now,” Johnson said. “I would really like to see (the township) participate.”