Pentwater Not Potwater: Debate Rages Over Village Dispensaries
It’s a debate many Northern Michigan communities are still facing, whether to welcome recreational marijuana or not. It’s currently a very active and visual debate in the village of Pentwater, where they are set up to have the first dispensaries in Oceana County. Unless a group of citizens can stand in the way.
If you drive through Pentwater you are sure to see red signs in front of dozens of homes, Pentwater not Potwater. A group of citizens are pushing back against the village council’s decision to opt-in to the recreational marijuana business.
“Most of the village had no idea what was happening and then when we started putting out signs, that’s when people started asking questions,” said Hoekstra, “Everyone was shocked that it was just approved.”
The group wants the people to decide with a ballot initiative. The village council voted on their own, 6-1,to opt-in back in July. Concerned Citizens of Pentwater say the process was by the rules but not transparent. The council said they discussed the topic over several meetings and made their decision after they say they researched how other communities fared for a year and a half.
“Overwhelmingly there are many more pros than cons,” said Jeff Hodges, Village Council President, “And knowing our community as intimately as most of our council members do, we decided that it was best at that point to go forward.”
Many would say there’s no reason to have a ballot measure now because back in 2018 when recreational marijuana was on the statewide ballot, the village of Pentwater voted to legalize it. The vote coming just barely over 50%.
The opponents to recreational marijuana in the village say a lot can change in three years and also voting to legalize statewide is not the same question as having it right here in their backyard.
“That’s what the voters do,” said Hoekstra, “That’s the American democracy and that’s how we should do it.”
“We were elected to do what’s best for our community, so based on the information, people who are elected made a decision,” said Hodges, “Knowing and thinking what’s best for our community.”
That’s where the council sees the benefit, increased tax revenue and year round business.
“We’re a great town. We’re a great place to be but it’s a 10-week town,” said Hodges, “We want to be a year-round town and I think this is a step in the right direction.”
This debate is scheduled to be up for discussion at the next village council meeting on October 11th.