Dicey decision for city commission on retail cannabis

The Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act took effect Dec. 6, which made the state the 10th in the United States to legalize the use and possession of recreation marijuana.

The actual implementation of the law is more complicated than it might seem.

The Marquette City Commission held a Monday work session to discuss the possibility of having commercial recreation marijuana establishments within the city limits.

It’s up to individual municipalities if the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs is unable to establish a bureau to handle regulations and licenses by 2020.

That could be tricky if the city establishes rules, and then the state comes up with regulations of its own.

That said, there are possible benefits to having marijuana establishments in the city.

Commercial marijuana already is big business, and many people believe such establishments create jobs and tax revenue.

The state act says there would be a 10 percent excise tax on marijuana sales, of which $20 million would go toward research on the efficacy of marijuana in treating veterans and preventing veteran suicide for the initial two years.

The rest of the money would be distributed to various entities, with 15 percent going to municipalities where a marijuana retail store is located. Other funds would go to the School Aid Fund for K-12 education and the Michigan Transportation Fund.

The city of Marquette also could require stores to pay a yearly $5,000 application fee.

City residents supported the issue issue of recreational marijuana by a significant margin in the November election, with 62 percent voting in favor of it.

As City Commissioner Jenn Hill said Monday, the city is moving into a “new realm,” with city officials planning to take it “step by step” to see how to proceed.

There’s a big opportunity here for tax revenue.

Mayor Pro Tem Sarah Reynolds questioned why the city couldn’t be at the forefront of the issue, noting that in the last five years, 75 percent of the businesses that opened in the city were coffee and alcohol establishments.

Reynolds also used the term “short-sighted” about the city were it to opt out of having marijuana retail stores.

On the other hand, City Manager Mike Angeli, who is a former chief of the Marquette police, suggested the city opt out until LARA establishes guidelines.

That could be a long wait. City Commissioner Jenna Smith pointed out it took the state eight years to create regulations and licenses for medical marijuana establishments after they were legalized.

We believe the crux of the issue here is whether the city wants to take advantage of the new recreational marijuana law and collect tax dollars that could be used for a variety of worthwhile projects.

Of course, there will be hiccups along the way. There always are. However, we are confident city officials will work through those and find a way to make the new retail marijuana stores successful and law-abiding at the same time.