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IONIA — A new group is pushing for a ballot proposal to allow recreational marijuana businesses in Ionia.

The Safe Ionia Committee announced Tuesday, June 2, that it is officially kicking off its campaign to pass a city ordinance to bring recreational marijuana businesses to Ionia.

Voters will be asked to place the proposal on the ballot and then vote on it in the November election, according to a Safe Ionia press release.

Safe Ionia is the result of the city’s current medical marijuana ordinance, said organizer Kyle Miller. The Ionia City Council voted in March 2019 to allow medical marijuana facilities.

Last October, the council voted to prohibit allowing recreational marijuana businesses — citing the need for more guidance from the state. Safe Ionia organizers state the proposed ordinance would “put in place a legal and regulatory framework to change that and allow these businesses to open here.” Safe Ionia is simply requesting that city zoning for medical marijuana businesses also include recreational marijuana, Miller said.

“There are a lot of folks who feel the current medical ordinance doesn’t go far enough and should be extended to (age 21 and older) adult recreational use facilities,” Miller said. “Our goal is to take the medical ordinance and add the recreational aspect to it.”

Safe Ionia formed within the last few weeks, Miller said. He feels expanding the ordinance to include recreational marijuana will allow new businesses to open, create jobs and boost the area economy. He stated that the city needs “to act fast to beat out surrounding communities as they begin to move forward with recreational marijuana.”

The income tax revenue that can be generated through recreational marijuana sales can benefit the city and Ionia County as a whole, Miller said.

“Just from being a lifelong Ionia resident, there’s been quite a few people vocally adamant about the need for accessibility,” Miller said.

Volunteers will soon begin collecting signatures from registered Ionia voters to place the ordinance proposal on the November ballot, Miller said. State law requires 97 valid signatures for ballot access, but Safe Ionia organizers expect to gather “many more than needed,” according to the group. Miller said the plan is to shoot for 200 signatures.

“(It’s) just to ensure the validity is correct and to make sure we have more than enough to make sure it’s on the ballot for the election in time,” Miller said.

Michigan voters in 2018 approved the use and sale of recreational marijuana throughout the state. Roughly 64 percent of city of Ionia voters who voted in November 2018 supported the legalization of recreational marijuana, according to Ionia County election results.

More information about the campaign is available at: Safeionia.com.

— Contact reporter Evan Sasiela at esasiela@sentinel-standard.com. Follow him on Twitter @SalsaEvan.

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