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BENTON HARBOR — Two Benton Harbor city commissioners said that the approval process for the city’s medical marijuana applications is flawed and taking too long.

“We’ve been doing this since … 2017, and it’s 2020,” Commissioner Juanita Henry said Wednesday during the city’s Legislative Committee meeting. “Everybody’s going to be in place and we’re not. We’re going to go without because the process is not moving fast enough.”

City Commissioner MaryAlice Adams said the process has been held up by the city’s attorney and financial people.

Henry said it’s important that the applications be pushed forward in a fair way.

“The (interim) city manager (Ellis Mitchell) is doing a yeoman’s job to clean up the mess he was left, but it’s still going real slow,” she said.

Mitchell said that of the 14 applications the city has, three have been approved by city staff and were given to commissioners to review. But he said the other 11 have deficiencies that need to be corrected.

Benton Harbor native Audrey Peeples presented the committee with what she said was a streamlined ordinance that would cover both medical and recreational marijuana. She said there are concerns about how long the process is taking in Benton Harbor, especially since the applications have been preapproved by the state.

Peeples said she worked as a paralegal in Chicago for 17 years before returning to her home town, where she has grown medical marijuana for the past 14 years as a licensed care provider. In addition, she said she works as a marijuana consultant.

Benton Harbor commissioners voted to opt out of recreational marijuana until they can put an ordinance in place to regulate it. It became legal to sell recreational marijuana in Michigan on Dec. 1, when state licensing is secured.

Peeples said that in the first two weeks, $3.1 million of marijuana products were sold, bringing in $515,051 in tax money.

“That (money) can go towards schools, roads, wherever you want to allocate it,” she said.

And she said that was with only five marijuana shops open across the state.

She said the longer the city waits, the more tax money and jobs it will miss out on.

“We can become the epicenter for this industry,” Peeples said.

So far Nobo Michigan has been the only medical marijuana company to be at least partially approved by the city. City commissioners have already approved one Class C grower’s license for Nobo’s facility at 900 Alreco Road. At their Monday meeting, commissioners will consider another Class C grower’s license and a processing license. Nobo also has applied for a provisioning license at a different location in the city. The company can grow up to 1,500 marijuana plants for each Class C growers license it receives.

Nobo Michigan Director Bill Stohler has previously said the company plans to invest $6 million in the city and hire 65 people.

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