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Under review: The future of medical marijuana in Benton Harbor

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- Benton Harbor leaders recently approved an ordinance allowing medical marijuana businesses into the city. Now, they’re figuring out where to let them open, and how many?

“I think it would be in the city’s best interest to maybe consider one of these businesses in the downtown area,” said Justin, who wants to open a medical marijuana business in Benton Harbor.

He spoke Tuesday afternoon during the public comment portion of a workshop the city’s planning commission held to discuss medical marijuana.

“I’d like you guys to reconsider allowing the provisioning centers to be on Main Street,” said Mike, another person who spoke during public comment. “With it being out in the open, I think it’s a safer atmosphere for patients coming to get their medicines.”

Those comments came at the end of a 3-hour meeting on Tuesday where members of the city’s planning commission tried to figure out which zones within city limits will be best for different types of medical marijuana businesses.

They analyzed a map that breaks the city down into different business, industrial, and residential districts.

They also discussed the impact putting medical marijuana in each potential district could have.

“If you allow it in a district, you’re basically saying that the entire district is eligible,” said Benton Harbor City Manager Darwin Watson.

A point brought up several times throughout the meeting was the proximity of schools, churches, and homes to potential business locations – some of which is prohibited by state law.

“Anytime you bring somebody to downtown and you have something there and they have money, they’re going to spend it!” said Juanita Henry, a Benton Harbor City Commissioner. “So why limit poor downtown Benton Harbor? Cause it’s going down – every year we lose a new business. Why you want to limit it to beer and food?”

No official decisions were made Tuesday because the meeting was only a workshop.

There will be two public forums held on January 23 and January 30 at 1 p.m. at city hall for residents to weigh in.

After the forums, the final decisions will be made.

In the meantime, city leaders are considering allowing the following businesses in certain parts of the city (reminder: these are subject to change):

2 provisioning centers (dispensaries, etc.)

8-10 growing facilities

3 safety compliance facilities (where marijuana is tested)

2-3 processor facilities (where marijuana products are made)

2-3 secure transport facilities (which bring marijuana from one business to another)

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