NORTHPORT — Voters in the tiny village of Northport will decide the fate of a marijuana dispensary that has already gotten approval of a special land use permit for its location on Mill Street.
Voters are being asked to repeal a Recreational Marijuana Establishments Ordinance — Ordinance 125 — that allows for adult-use marijuana-based businesses in the village and replace it with a new ordinance that would prohibit such establishments.
The Northport Planning Commission in August approved a special land use permit for a marijuana dispensary at 800 Mill St. in the development district, which allows for a mix of residential housing and low impact businesses. Leelanau Township resident Daniel Caudill is the applicant.
Petition signatures were submitted earlier this year in a citizens referendum to get the question on the ballot, which is allowed by the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act approved by state voters in 2018.
Leelanau Township resident Thomas Oehmke is the attorney for a citizen committee Northport CAWS, an acronym for Citizens Against Weed Shops. Ordinance 125 allows for two dispensaries, one transporter, one safety tester and one processor, though no other applicants besides Daniel Caudill have come forward, he said.
“People should vote ‘yes’ if they want to preserve the character of the community, if they want to minimize the potential threat to the environment of the peaceful, quiet nature of the town,” Oehmke said.
Marijuana is still legal and people can possess it, grow up to a dozen plants under the law and buy it at several shops that have opened in Traverse City, he said.
“All the benefits of marijuana, especially for those who need medical marijuana, will remain in place,” Oehmke said.
Northport Trustee Will Harper is a vocal proponent of marijuana businesses in the village.
“I do hope the voters don’t repeal the ordinance,” Harper said. “It presents a lot of opportunity for Northport in terms of year-round employment and a draw of high-end people to the village.”
Harper said he has been impressed with how some of the shops in the area are operating, such as the Lume Cannabis Co. in Honor that opened in February.
“It enhances rather than detracts from the character of the village,” Harper said.
Under the Marijuana Act, municipalities were required to opt out of allowing recreational or adult-use marijuana dispensaries and other related businesses if they didn’t want them.
The Northport Village Council last year held several meetings in which they heard sometimes heated arguments from people on both sides of the marijuana issue. In October council members passed a resolution allowing both medical and recreational businesses.
No other municipality in Leelanau County allows them.