Dr. Charlene McGunn, of the Chippewa Valley Schools Coalition for Youth and Families, speaks about marijuana laws and possible dispensaries within Clinton Township during a special town hall meeting May 22, at the Clinton-Macomb Public Library Main Branch.

Dr. Charlene McGunn, of the Chippewa Valley Schools Coalition for Youth and Families, speaks about marijuana laws and possible dispensaries within Clinton Township during a special town hall meeting May 22, at the Clinton-Macomb Public Library Main Branch.

Photo by Sarah Purlee


Panelists, public weigh in on hypothetical marijuana facilities

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published May 28, 2019

 A packed room of residents and elected officials listen to panelists discuss the laws and possible ramifications of marijuana facilities.

A packed room of residents and elected officials listen to panelists discuss the laws and possible ramifications of marijuana facilities.

Photo by Sarah Purlee

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Potential marijuana facilities in the community was the subject of a May 22 town hall meeting at the Clinton-Macomb Public Library Main Branch, 40900 Romeo Plank Road, where proponents and opponents of medical and recreational distribution facilities within township borders made their cases known.

A near-capacity crowd listened to six different speakers — deemed as “stakeholders” in the ongoing and often contentious debate — expound their views. A question-and-answer session followed.

Panelists included Dr. Charlene McGunn, of the Chippewa Valley Coalition for Youth and Families; attorney Jeffrey Shroder, of Plunkett Cooney; attorney Anthony Penna, of Moore Penna & Associates PLLC; Dr. Saqib Nakadar, of Doc Greens Clinic; Fraser Public Schools Board of Education President Laura Edghill; and attorney Donald DeNault Jr., of O’Reilly Rancilio P.C.

McGunn said the decriminalization of marijuana has lent itself to further societal problems, especially targeted toward youths, including higher potency and less stringent regulations.

Edibles are 80%-90% more potent, she said, leading to more emergency room visits. She cited the National Institute of Health, saying one in six people who use marijuana become addicted.

“Marijuana assaults the youth brain,” she said, referring to the effects on the prefrontal cortex in the brain.

She said that once marijuana infiltrates a community, it is difficult to stop.

“Everyone who voted for medical marijuana did it for compassion,” she said.

Shroder, who possesses knowledge related to state marijuana laws and licensing, compared the debate surrounding marijuana to that of abortion: Individuals have likely made up their minds one way or another.

If the township hypothetically moved forward, dispensaries would be the “most heavily regulated business” in the community, he suggested. Blaming such facilities for dispensing is like blaming drug stores for the opioid epidemic, he added.

About 55 percent of Michiganders voted to approve recreational marijuana in November 2018, with about 54 percent of Clinton Township residents supporting the measure.

Shroder said that with FBI background checks, tax return checks and the like, such extensive measures make things safer now than they were 25 years ago when he was in high school and marijuana still made its rounds through high school hallways.

“To me, it’s no different than alcohol, which causes all sorts of societal problems,” he said.

Penna, a township resident for nearly four decades, said there is a “scare tactic” taking place in which residents are being made to believe the substance will “inevitably” find its way into the community’s industrial zones.

He said that because the Clinton Township Board of Trustees already “opted out” earlier this year, it makes a possible ballot measure for community dispensaries null.

“It’s about money,” he said, noting it’s just a matter of time until lobbyists impact elected officials and the community as a whole.

“We have control over this process. … They’re dressing up as a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” Penna said.

Nakadar is an advocate for medical marijuana use who has studied the scientific and health benefits. He said he has seen the medicinal benefits, in terms of individuals with cerebral palsy and autism, among others.

“For me, it’s important patients have access,” Nakadar said. “I have patients who are 6 years old and 96 years old.”

Edghill, a Clinton Township resident, said the money raised from legalization is not as big a game changer as many believe.

“There’s no community I found anywhere in the country that has made money off community establishments,” she said.

She added that use among youth leads to worse grades, lower attendance and discipline issues. Usage in Colorado following legalization led to an 86% uptick in school-related incidents, she claimed.

Stereotypes for users are rooted in truth, she said, using the example of the “stoner” character Jeff Spicoli in the 1982 film “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”

“Ideas have consequences, and bad ideas have victims,” she said. “This is a bad idea.”

DeNault Jr. compared municipalities’ control over the three marijuana-related laws to how state laws on fireworks can be manipulated at local levels by way of secondary regulations.

He has seen no diminishing effects on the black market following the medical laws from 2008 and 2016, adding that the 2016 law was “noble” in some efforts, but only has led to more proliferation and more money in the pockets of growers.

It’s “out of control” locally, he said, referring to Macomb County. Michigan could be “ground zero” as a test case on a national level due to how the 2018 recreational law was devised.

“I do think the state has tipped its hand” in phasing out medical marijuana, he said.

Overall, when it comes to the laws themselves and how they are articulated to members of the public, DeNault Jr. said they are “extremely complex.”

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