2017-09-13 / Front Page

No decision on Marion pot farm

Large growing operation proposed
810-452-2684 • skovac@mihomepaper.com

Bretton Jones Bretton Jones DECKERVILLE — A crowd of about 70 people gathered in the Deckerville Community Center last week to hear native son Bretton Jones pitch the large-scale growing of marijuana for medicinal uses on a local farm.

The forum for the discussion was a meeting of the Marion Township Board on Sept. 5.

The proposed site of the large-scale marijuana growing facility is 3271 Deckerville Road east of Deckerville.

The 40-acre tract of farmland sits on the north side of Deckerville Road between Hunt Road and Burgess Road.

Acknowledging the passion of people in attendance on both sides of the controversial issue, township Supervisor Kurt Shubel began by laying out the ground rules for the audience comments portion of the discussion.

Shubel told the audience that Jones had asked to be on the agenda for the purpose of sharing additional facts with the community about his proposal, and that the board was still actively gathering information on the subject.

Erin Krumenacker of Argyle (top near the center) extols the painkilling effectiveness of cannabis to a crowd at the Sep. 5 meeting of the Marion Township board. 
Photo by Steven Kovac Erin Krumenacker of Argyle (top near the center) extols the painkilling effectiveness of cannabis to a crowd at the Sep. 5 meeting of the Marion Township board. Photo by Steven Kovac Jones first held a well-attended public meeting to introduce his plans in April. He has since been working with the township planning commission and the township board in the hopes of gaining their support for the project.

“The purpose of tonight’s discussion is informational,” explained Shubel. “The board will not be making any decisions at this time.”

Jones, 36, then addressed the meeting from his seat beside a 48-inch flat screen TV which he used to present a power-point explanation of his plans.

“First, I want to apologize,” said Jones, “to everybody who has been upset by our proposal. It is not our intention to get the community all spiraled-up emotionally.”

Jones referred to himself, Wesley Reinelt and Jason Thompson, his business partners in the company they call “Thumb United,” as “three Deckerville expatriates” who just want to help conveniently provide medical marijuana to Sanilac County patients, and to help the Deckerville area reap the financial benefit of new and potentially lucrative businesses that are expected to spring up in Michigan when the new state law takes effect in December.

The law is the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act of 2016.

Under the law, the medical marijuana industry in Michigan is poised for some dramatic expansions.

Besides dispensaries (a.k.a. provisioning centers), other soon to be legal enterprises will be commercial-scale growing facilities, processing facilities, inspection and product safety compliance labs, and secure transportation, all closely regulated by the new Michigan Medical Marihuana Licensing Board.

Brown City, Sandusky, and Minden City have also been approached by developers of one or more of the soon to be legal marijuana-based enterprises. To date, none have enacted the necessary ordinances.

Included in Jones’ power-point were drawings of the buildings and grounds of the proposed growing and processing facility, along with statistics showing the economic benefit to municipalities and school districts in Colorado and other states from similar enterprises licensed by their state governments.

Jones’ report also included facts supporting claims of the safe and desirable effects on health and pain management of medical marijuana.

He also reviewed the legally mandated security requirements for the new operation, such as the barcode tracking of every plant from seed to sale, razor wire-topped fences surrounding the compound, 24-hour video monitoring of the facility, and the rule that the site must be void of humans from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.

Jones told the audience, “A growing operation producing 1,500 plants can be expected to employ 10 full-time, 10 part-time, and 20 seasonal workers.”

He said the plan also includes the creation of business offices for the company within the village of Deckerville.

Jones later told the News, “The revitalization of Deckerville is very important to me. I’m from here. I had to leave town for a while to get my higher education and find work. I now live on the farm. The land has been in my family since 1873.

“I’ve been operating there as a licensed caregiver grower without incident or violation for three years. I grow 72 plants in order to supply the state-allotted maximum of five medical marijuana patients,” said Jones.

When the floor was opened to public comment, Erin Krumenacker of Argyle said, “I have personally witnessed cannabis help people with pain.”

Ryan Mullaney of Brown City stated, “I’ve lost four friends to opioid overdoses. I believe the use of medical marijuana would bring about a reduction in opioid abuse.”

“You can abuse cough syrup,” interjected one man.

One woman commented, “I’ve lost four friends in two months. Medical marijuana works well as a substitute for opioids.”

Marty Rheaume of Croswell approached Jones’ proposal from a different angle, saying, “I think we should all consider the value of living in a free society. We need to consider the right to do lawful things on our own property. We need to consider the rights we have over our own bodies. We need to be letting people make decisions for themselves. It’s easy to stick up for freedom by waving a flag. The challenge is to stick up for somebody’s freedom even if you think they are wrong.”

Rheaume’s remarks drew applause from most of the audience.

Ruth O’Mara, who with her husband Tim, lives directly across the road from Jones, asked, “How many of the people we have heard from tonight actually live in Marion Township? I ask you, how would you like a marijuana farm in your backyard?”

A woman named Catherine warned the board that the idea was too new. “I hate to see Marion Township be the forerunner.”

This prompted a man to suggest to the board to “Put the thing on hold for a while.”

“How about a vote of the people?” asked a lady.

“We’d love to put it to a public vote,” responded Jones.

“I can’t answer that right now,” replied Shubel, who then brought the 45-minute public comment session to a conclusion by saying, “We as a board are learning more and more. We have made no decisions.”

In an interview with the News the next day, Jones said, “I am willing to work with people. The O’Maras are great neighbors. If traffic is one of their concerns, we are willing to take steps to address that, as well as other concerns people might have.

“The issue is charged with emotion on all sides. I’m a patient and rational person. Facts are a powerful thing. I am confident that once people understand what we are really about we will get approved,” said Jones.

Under the new state law, before any of the soon to be legalized medical marijuana businesses can open in a community, the local governing body must pass an ordinance to allow the activity.

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