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Welcoming weed to southwest Michigan

BERRIEN COUNTY, Mich. -- As Berrien County communities continue holding public forums, meetings, and votes on medical marijuana, we wanted to update you on where things stand.

“I voted against it,” said Bob Durm, a longtime Niles City Councilman. “Not because I was against medical marijuana; just because I wanted to move a little more cautiously than what we had set forth.”

On Monday, November 13, the Niles City Council voted to let medical marijuana be sold in the city.

Durm said the discussion in Niles throughout the last few months has mostly leaned in favor of letting it in.

There are two other Berrien County cities, and one county village, that are also working out some details.

The village of Eau Claire moved the fastest.

Local leaders there voted ‘yes’ back in August to allow one medical marijuana growing facility in town; but no dispensaries.

The city of Buchanan followed.

On November 13, councilmembers voted to allow dispensaries to be located in the heart of downtown.

This followed the city’s decision back in March to let medical marijuana in.

Growing facilities will also be able to set up shop in Buchanan, just not in the downtown area.

And then there’s Benton Harbor.

Leaders there are working to pass their own ordinance that could allow growing facilities and dispensaries in the city.

There was a special meeting held on Tuesday to discuss the matter; but the ordinance has not been completed yet.

Back in Niles, Durm said he’s hopeful the ‘yes’ vote will be a positive step for the city.

He said state regulations are already impacting where the council can agree to let marijuana businesses open.

“There was a big debate on our downtown district,” Durm said. “But with the way the state laws now read, with the limitations on distances from churches and schools and things, there’s really not much space available in our downtown district for dispensaries or any type of business.”

The Niles City Council will meet on Monday, November 27 to vote on zoning rules.

Durm said residential areas and the city’s downtown will be off limits for marijuana facilities.

There are five types of medical marijuana businesses, in all, that could be coming into these communities that vote in favor – ranging from dispensaries, growers, transporters, warehousing, and more.

Beginning on December 15, the state of Michigan will start reviewing applications to determine which businesses can set up shop in the communities that have approved it.

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