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Traverse City looks to Lansing for guidance on marijuana laws

Brett Levin

Leaders in Traverse City are taking a “wait and see” approach to changing the city’s marijuana laws.

At a meeting Monday night, the city commission discussed how it might adapt to new marijuana regulations coming from the State of Michigan.

State regulators say they will start issuing licenses for marijuana growers, processors and dispensaries December 15th. Communities can “opt in” to the new marijuana laws, which were passed by the state legislature last year.

But Commissioner Richard Lewis said the city should wait and see what the state does.

“Until we see their rules, we’re kind of hamstrung now to do anything,” said Lewis. “I think we should just stay with the status quo. I see no reason to change anything.”

Commissioner Amy Shamroe agreed, saying there’s no need for Traverse City to “rush ahead.”

“That said, I’m not opposed to changing the status quo,” said Shamroe. “Maybe it makes sense for us to do this.”

Traverse City has seven dispensaries that currently operate under Michigan’s 2008 Medical Marihuana Act. If the city does nothing, medical dispensaries could stay but commercial marijuana businesses would not be allowed.

City Attorney Lauren Trible-Laucht reminded commissioners that marijuana is still an illegal drug in the eyes of the federal government. The Obama administration declined to enforce the law but so far the Trump administration has only put out “smoke signals” about how it will treat marijuana, said Trible-Laucht.

Trible-Laucht said the new marijuana laws would allow Traverse City to charge up to $5,000 for a license, but it will be “quite a while” before state licenses are issued.

Commissioner Gary Howe suggested forming a committee to further examine the city’s options, and most commissioners spoke in favor of that idea.

Commissioner Michele Howard said Traverse City should be more proactive.

“We’re a regional hub,” said Howard. “The problem will come to us without the money to fund it. I’d rather see us have a plan in hand.”