Sylvan Township discusses recreational marijuana


During public comment at the Sept. 5 Sylvan Township Board meeting, members of the SRSLY coalition spoke and they were Chrissie Kremzier, Kate Yocum and Reiley Curran. photo by Lonnie Huhman

Sylvan Township’s meeting room was basically full at the September 5 Board of Trustees meeting, and many in attendance wanted to voice their views on the idea of the township potentially allowing the commercial retail sale of marijuana.

Public attendance and their comments, with around 40 residents at the meeting, might not represent everyone in the township that has a population of just over 3,000, but it still made an impact. A great majority of the public at the meeting voiced their opposition to the township opening itself up to allowing the business of marijuana in Sylvan Township.

Although the commercial sale of recreational marijuana is allowed in the state of Michigan, the township does have the ability/power to permit or not permit the establishment of commercial recreational marijuana facilities within township boundaries.

There were no decisions made on marijuana at the meeting. Rather it was tabled or postponed in order for the township board to have another opportunity to talk with the township’s attorney about the latest on marijuana in the state in an effort to get more information around the costs and benefits that could come with permitting the different allowable facilities, whether it’s retail shops, testing facilities, or growing facilities.

The meeting’s agenda said it was purely a discussion item.

Some of the discussion questions were: what facets would the township be considering? How would allowing the retail sale of it be beneficial to the township? And who would be responsible for overseeing it?

One resident who spoke in opposition during public comment was Mike Van Goor. Part of his logic seemed to be why does the township need dispensaries when they are just down the road in places like Ann Arbor, Jackson or Adrian.

Citing the city of Chelsea and Lima Township’s opposition, Van Goor said Sylvan should stand in solidarity with their neighbors and concluded with, “We don’t need them (dispensaries) here in the township.”

The local coalition SRSLY was also represented during the public comment. The three people from the coalition were Reiley Curran, Director of Community Health and SRSLY Coalition at St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea, Chrissie Kremzier, SRSLY Dexter Coalition Director and Kate Yocum, SRSLY Chelsea Director.

The coalition includes the schools, hospital, law enforcement, businesses, civic groups, the library, churches, parents and youth. They partner to advocate for youth mental health and raise awareness about the prevalence of youth substance abuse and the resources that are available.

They handed out a “Marijuana Fact Sheet” as they expressed their concerns about how potentially allowing recreational dispensaries in the township may have harmful effects on youth.

One “fact” stated scientific studies show that youth who attend school within a four-mile radius of a marijuana dispensary are more likely to use marijuana. Another “fact” said evidence suggests that marijuana use is likely to increase the risk of developing schizophrenia, other psychoses, and social anxiety disorders. These are just two “facts” from their four-page handout.

Much of the public comment saw residents expressing concerns about how allowing dispensaries in the township would increase accessibility to marijuana and how this could have a negative impact on local youth’s mental and physical well-being.

After the public comment, the township board looked to approve their meeting agenda. Board trustee Kurt Koseck put forth the motion to remove the marijuana item from the agenda and not entertain any further discussion. This motion was struck down and it was kept on after a 2-3 vote with township supervisor Kathleen Kennedy, treasurer Rod Branham and trustee Sandie Schulze wanting to have further discussion about it.

Schulze said she understood the concerns expressed by the residents about dispensaries, but she wondered if they should discuss the other areas allowed, such as growing facilities. She said she and some other board members visited commercial growing facilities in Adrian and saw firsthand how it is legally regulated and how local ordinances empowers oversight while local law enforcement is fully aware of the operations.

She said they should consider continuing their discussion and consult further with the township attorney to better understand the potential costs and benefits that could come with the other facets of marijuana rather than the dispensaries.

In the agenda item sheet, Branham said this has been an ongoing discussion by the board and there’s still interest from retailers and some residents to see the township discuss the idea. He said township voters did support by just over 50 percent the legalization of marijuana.

When it came time to vote on tabling the matter, the board voted 4 to 1 with township clerk Amanda Nimke as the no vote.

The Sun Times News (STN) followed up with her to ask about this.

“I voted no on tabling the marijuana question because I believe the Board has received enough information to make a decision on the question,” she said by email. “Allowing recreational marijuana, specifically retail sales, was first proposed at the April 6, 2021 Board of Trustees meeting, and was tabled for 10 meetings until January 11, 2022. During those months the attorney weighed in twice with details on the legal aspects surrounding all facets of recreational marijuana businesses. Some Board members visited a marijuana business and gathered facts, and reached out to municipalities that allowed it. Many details were gathered and numerous discussions have taken place in Board meetings regarding this issue.”

Nimke further explained, “At the September 5, 2023 Board of Trustees meeting, we heard many additional facts and data from citizens who cited peer-reviewed studies on the impacts of marijuana on our youth and our communities. We also heard clearly from the many residents who spoke at the meeting that they did not want marijuana businesses in their communities. We certainly now have many facts and details surrounding the issue.”

During the January 11, 2022 Board of Trustees meeting, Nimke said, “Supervisor Kennedy referenced the fact that marijuana was not cited as a priority at the recent joint meeting with the Planning Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals, and Board of Trustees. Kennedy made a motion to table it to a later date, and it passed 3-2. Since then, the priorities in Sylvan Township have not changed.”

Nimke said, “With the many months of discussion of recreational marijuana, the attorney weighing in twice, and public input, it made sense to me that we as a Board would have been prepared to take a vote on it. Board members also did not identify what so specific additional information they wanted. Lastly, there are many more pressing items, such as the water system and future land use issues that require Board attention and action and would better serve Sylvan residents.”

Kennedy told the residents gathered she also understood their concerns and heard them while adding that she too is a concerned parent. However, she said the township also wants to be better informed in order to better understand the overall situation with marijuana before making any potential decisions.

STN followed up and asked her what she wants township residents to know.

“I want to let the community know that this is only a discussion item at this time,” she said. “It sounds like there are some rumors in the community, so I would like to encourage residents to contact me if they have concerns about things they hear. Everyone on the Board is happy to hear residents’ input on this and any matter, at a Township Board meeting, in person, or via email or phone.”

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