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You won’t be able to buy a quarter ounce of high quality recreational marijuana at your friendly neighborhood weed store in Port Huron this summer.

Citing the exigencies of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city of Port Huron pushed its prohibition on commercial marijuana establishments three months into the future, from June 30 through Sept. 30.

The city council took the action unanimously at its regular meeting on June 8.

“If you would have told me three years ago that I was going to load up in my RV Councilmen Harris, Worden and the mayor and go tour marijuana shops, I wouldn’t have believed you,” said City Manager James Freed.

The council boarded Freed’s RV in January for a fact-finding mission to two of Ferndale’s medical pot emporiums, one of which was preparing to open a recreational marijuana store.

“We have draft ordinances, boilerplate, that will go to the planning commission and the planning commission will have numerous work sessions,” Freed said. “Then we’re going to hold numerous public hearings to hear from people in the community,” said Freed.

The novel coronavirus pandemic slowed down the process.

“We didn’t want to roll these out during in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis, because how do you truly get public input and feedback on an ordinance as important as this — that’s going to affect our community for many years — when you can’t hold public hearings?” Freed asked.

With Michigan largely opened up now, residents should be prepared to see action on the issue.

“We’re ready to roll this out to the planning commission,” Freed said. “We’re ready to get the hearings going. And we’re ready to get public feedback. But there’s no way we can get that done in 30 days. Now that the public can come to meetings, now that we can have in-person meetings, we believe we can get this done by October.”

Councilmember Ken Harris noted that the Michigan Municipal League recently devoted an issue of its monthly magazine to the marijuana industry.

“The ups, the downs, how it affects the real estate values,” said Harris. “It was a comprehensive study. In the back of my mind as I shared some of this with the planning commission last month, I was wondering when we were going to step forward. So I’m glad it’s on the agenda tonight. I think we’ve got to move forward. I think we’ve got some entrepreneurs that may be interested. And I think most of the council members don’t know whether we want it or not. There’s a lot of things to decide. The community has a lot of decisions to make on this issue. It’s a big issue for Port Huron. I’m looking forward to it.”

Freed said the delay presented by the pandemic was not all bad.

“At one point, the state was only granting licenses (for recreational sales) to people who already had medical marijuana licenses,” said Freed. “If we would have opted in then, when we didn’t have any medical marijuana, the entrepreneurial opportunities in the cannabis industry in Port Huron would have gone to people who already had businesses elsewhere in the state.”

If the city is going to allow the sale of recreational marijuana, “it’s very important our residents have the first shot at it,” said Freed.

Jim Bloch is a freelance writer. Contact him at bloch.jim@gmail.com.

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