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Medical marijuana talks continue in Benton Harbor

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- Another public forum was held on Tuesday to look at the latest draft of the medical marijuana ordinance in Benton Harbor.

“What we’re talking about is no different than a pharmacy,” said Mary Alice Adams, a city commissioner.

“I don’t believe that Benton Harbor is ready for prime time yet, relative to medical marijuana,” said Peter Colovos, a longtime real estate developer in Benton Harbor.

“The effective result of passing these zoning amendments is to shut the door on medical marijuana in Benton Harbor. You will kill it,” said Dale Kleber, of Tetra Horticulture Company.

These were some of the familiar faces who, yet again, spoke to Benton Harbor planning commissioners on Tuesday about medical marijuana.

The main topic at hand concerned letter ‘B’ on page two of the drafted ordinance.

It stated that no medical marijuana businesses could open in the city if a ‘residential use’ property was within 500-feet.

“If you have that 500-foot buffer zone, it knocks out about 90-percent of the industrial areas, because in Benton Harbor industrial areas are very close to homes,” Kleber said.

Kleber showed commissioners a map explaining his argument that it’d be nearly impossible for him to open a growing facility in town if that 500-foot rule stayed.

Commissioners spent much of the meeting debating whether to keep it in or not, before realizing they had previously voted in February to take the rule out.

After consulting the city attorney, who admitted the latest draft may not have been updated with the most recent developments from previous meetings, commissioners voted again on Tuesday to replace the 500-foot rule with a broader stipulation: Any medical marijuana business wanting to open near a residential property has to be individually approved.

“If I were a neighbor near an industrial zone, I would rather have somebody growing plants than running a metal scrapyard, a chemical plant, something with big, belch-y diesel smokestacks,” Kleber said.

Commissioners also agreed Tuesday to slightly edit the wording of letter ‘C’ on the drafted ordinance, which states, “All applicable regulations of Articles 3 and 4, including but not limited to Accessory Buildings and Structures, Parking Requirements, Signs, Visual Screening Requirements, Building Height Requirements, and Yard, Setback and Lot Area Requirements.”

Commissioners voted to add “are met or have been met” to the end of the sentence.

There will be a special legislative committee meeting about medical marijuana at city hall on Wednesday, April 25 right after a separate 5:30pm committee meeting.

As of right now, the medical marijuana ordinance should come before the full city commission for a vote on May 7.

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