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Niles City Council votes to ban future marijuana establishments

NILES, Mich. -- The Niles City Council voted 5-3 in favor of banning future marijuana establishments in the city, on Monday night.

This vote came after much debate over the topic and after the state of Michigan voted in favor of Proposal 1 on the midterm ballot. 

Proposal 1 will legalize marijuana for adult recreational use.

This ordinance will completely prohibit marijuana establishments within the city of Niles, except for those which licenses are currently pending under the medical marijuana facilities licensing act.

The vote was not on Monday's agenda, but during his final address to the council outgoing 4th Ward Council Member Tim Skalla called for a second reading and action on the ordinance.

"I think if we opt out of this we will do what we intended to do and keep control over it," said Skalla.

Many council members supported that move saying voting ‘yes’ on this is not necessarily saying ‘no’ to marijuana.

"It's not like anybody is going to be able to open up shop in the next six months or even a year, which gives us some time to make sure we do it right," said 2nd Ward Council Member Daniel VandenHeede.

Mayor Nick Shelton disagreed.

“We are absolutely saying no to it," said Shelton. "You can put the brakes on it, but that does not change the perception of people who are considering Niles for their business. That is a no. That is a harsh no.That is a slap in the face no to people who want to take a chance on the city of Niles for a legal product.”

Despite the Mayor’s recommendation to vote no, the ordinance passed with a 5 to 3 vote.

Council members Georgia Boggs, Daniel VandenHeede, Robert Durm, William Weimer and Tim Skalla voted in favor of the ordinance. Gretchen Bertschy, Charlie McAfee and John DiCostanzo were against it. 

Jessica Nelson is set to replace Skalla as 4th Ward Council Member next month. She says the vote would have been different if it was put off until the next meeting.

“"I feel that it was inappropriate to have that vote tonight," said Nelson. "It was something that was originally on the agenda and then it was removed because the vote had not been certified and I had not been seated yet. That would have changed the outcome and so I think it was something that the community was not expecting.”

Mayor Shelton says this decision goes directly against what voters in Niles want.

"It's our job to listen to the people of our community," said Shelton. "The people of our community voted overwhelmingly in favor of Proposal One and I don't think the council did that tonight."

According to the city, 2,123 people in Niles voted 'yes' on Proposal 1, while 1,293 voted 'no'.

Many of the council members said they are willing to revisit this when they know more about how the state intends to handle licensing of recreational pot shops.


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