Max Johnston

Reporter/producer

Max came to IPR in 2017 as an environmental intern. In 2018, he returned to the station as a general assignment reporter. Before joining IPR, Max worked as a news director and reporter at Michigan State University's student radio station WDBM. In 2018, he reported on a Title IX dispute with MSU in his story "Prompt, Thorough and Impartial." His work has also been heard on Michigan Radio and WDBM and WKAR in East Lansing.

Taylor Wizner

This week on Points North, a community prepares to be stranded on an island in the middle of winter. Plus, a furrier transforms animal pelts into expensive clothes. 


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After nearly 20 years, Addiction Treatment Services in Traverse City will stop performing court-ordered drug tests.

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The bay is solid ice from Traverse City to Power Island.  This is the sixth time in 20 years that Grand Traverse Bay has frozen over, but it used to happen more often. Heather Smith with The Grand Traverse Bay Watershed Center says recent winters have been more mild.

"We’re having just less ice coverage, the duration of ice coverage is declining," Smith says. "That’s kind of generally what we’re seeing across the Great Lakes region."

Smith says climate change may be to blame.

While the bay is frozen over the Watershed Center says people should stay off the ice.

TheraCann

Michigan wants to make the medical marijuana process easier. The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) proposed several new rules for patients and caregivers on Tuesday.

They include cutting the application fee from $60 to $40, increasing the renewal period for medical marijuana cards and eliminating the background check processing fee for caregivers.

Medical Marijuana Caregiver David Martin says the old fees and rules scared off caregivers and patients.

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Amidst congressional negotiations on border security, lawmakers are trying to protect Great Lakes infrastructure projects that could be caught up in the debate.

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Anglers across Michigan won’t be able to catch as many perch. Right now they can get 50 per day but this spring it will be 25.

Randy Claramunt with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources says perch populations have been declining for decades.

"There’s a lot of pressure on them in specific areas," Claramunt says. "So this … recognizes the value that yellow perch are to anglers in Michigan."

Claramunt says anglers pushed for the change because it may increase perch numbers. The new limit takes effect on April 1.

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Researchers at Michigan Technological University will pump water down mine shafts in the Upper Peninsula, spinning hydroelectric turbines along the way.

Roman Sidortsov, professor of Energy Policy at Michigan Tech, says that could generate renewable energy. Sidortsov says the UP relies on importing electricity that comes from fossil fuels, but this research could provide a homegrown alternative for the region.

"You can basically start developing your own energy," Sidortsov says. "[These] kinds of installations do generate quite a bit of economic activity."

Max Johnston

Homeless shelters and nonprofits are getting headcounts of the homeless across the country this month. The data goes to the federal government for homelessness prevention. But this year's count in northern Michigan happened to fall on one of the coldest nights of the year.

TheraCann

Lake Superior State University is offering what they call the nation’s first 'Cannabis Chemistry' degrees.

For example students can take classes on the preparation and hydration of cannabis, also known as marijuana, as part of their degree. University President Rodney Hanley says the curriculum is no joke.

“This is not a slouchy education that you get here, and it’s certainly not some stereotyped thing around cannabis or something like that," Hanley says. "This is very much a high-quality, analytical chemistry program.”

Max Johnston

Last year nearly 3,000 people died from drug overdoses in Michigan. That was an 80 percent increase in the past five years. There is a form of treatment that could help.

It involves prescribed medication to fight addiction and has been called the “gold standard” for opioid treatment. But it can be hard to find in northern Michigan.

Mike Lober was addicted to painkillers and heroin for 40 years. He says he was constantly chasing his next fix.

U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jessica Snow

Rep. Michele Hoitenga (R-Manton) introduced a bill to legalize stun guns last week. She says it would give women more options for self defense.

"I carry a firearm with me for self-protection, but a lot of women ... aren't comfortable doing that," Hoitenga said.

Unlike tasers stun guns don't fire projectiles and are meant for close proximity.

If the bill passes anyone in the state over 21 could use and possess a stun gun for self-defense. It has been referred to the State House Judiciary Committee.

Stun guns are legal in Ohio, Illinois and Indiana.

THERACANN

Recreational Marijuana became legal in Michigan on Dec. 6, 2018. Otsego County Prosecuting Attorney Brendan Curran says he welcomed it.

“We have a significant drug problem here, and that problem is not marijuana. That problem is drugs that kill people” Curran says. “That’s what I’ve intended to focus as much resources as possible on.”

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Counties across Michigan are being sued over a common foreclosure practice. When a foreclosed home is auctioned by the county, they keep the profits.

Max Johnston

As Traverse City grows, its tree canopy is shrinking. The city is trying to protect trees in city limits, but no one can agree on the best way to do it.

THERACANN

Traverse City won't allow recreational marijuana businesses in city limits.

The state hasn't finalized the licensing regulations for recreational marijuana businesses yet.

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Geno Allessandrini of the Michigan Laborers District Council was appointed to the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority on Wednesday, but resigned a day later for personal reasons.

The authority will oversee the construction and operation of a tunnel for a new oil pipeline in the straits.

 

Ari Adler, a spokesman for Governor Snyder, says the governor didn’t ask for the resignation.

 

"He did resign of his own free will, and he said that he was stepping aside for personal reasons," says Adler.

 

The U.S. Coast Guard

The U.S. Coast Guard will open a new facility to prepare for a potential oil spill in the Great Lakes.

 

As part of the Coast Guard reauthorization bill signed into law by President Trump Tuesday, they will open a National Center of Expertise in the Great Lakes.

 

U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D), who sponsored the provision, says the facility will research clean up and response methods to an oil spill in freshwater.

 

TheraCann

Cities across northern Michigan are considering temporary bans on recreational marijuana dispensaries. Recreational marijuana becomes legal in Michigan on Thursday.

TheraCann

East Jordan is considering an ordinance that would restrict legal marijuana use. It would ban it on public property and stop dispensaries from opening within city limits.

Max Johnston

Residents heard details about a rail line that could connect Ann Arbor and Traverse City at a community meeting Tuesday night.

Grand Traverse County

Two Democrats will be joining the Grand Traverse County Commission in January.

The commission has historically been dominated by Republicans.

Bryce Hundley and Betsy Coffia were the two Democratic winners. Coffia says Democrats had a strong showing in races across the county.

"I think you're seeing a community that is really motivated for that change," Coffia says. "It takes a lot of work, but I do believe we're moving in that direction, in a more progressive direction."

Grand Traverse County

Updated on 11/1/18 at 5:21. The mailer was originally sent to residents of Peninsula Township 1 and Traverse City Precincts 7, 8 and 9  

Some people on Old Mission Peninsula may be confused about where they vote next week.

 

A mailer from county commission candidate Dan Lathrop (R) incorrectly told some residents that their polling place has moved.

A man threatened to blow up the Grand Traverse County Republican headquarters on Wednesday according to a statement from the Grand Traverse Sheriff’s Office.

 

They say a man came in holding a sign with “Trump is Satan” written on it and made the threat.

 

Sheriff’s deputies brought in bomb-sniffing dogs and cleared the building after the man left.

 

They are currently investigating the incident.

Munson Healthcare

Munson Medical Center in Traverse City is getting $1.5 million to treat opioid addiction.

 

Some of the money will be used to offer medication-assisted treatment (MAT). That involves prescribed medication like Suboxone that suppresses opiate cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

 

Susan Kramer, behavioral health manager at Munson, says they’ll also offer behavioral health services.

 

Max Johnston

Medication-assisted treatment is increasingly cited as a way to curb the opioid epidemic. However, only 23 percent of publicly funded treatment programs offer it, according to the Pew Research Center.

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