The Detroit News. September 14, 2016
Senate pot bills ensure patients fair access.
The Senate last week passed a package of bills to substantially alter the state's medical marijuana program, which has been vague ever since its 2008 passage. The vote is a mixed bag.
On the one hand, stronger guidelines and explicit approval of certain marijuana products were sorely needed, as many medical marijuana patients have been using the medicine in regulatory limbo.
At the same time, the regulatory framework approved by the Senate will likely enable the Legislature to favor certain parts of the system over others, and could potentially send business back to the black market.
The legislation creates a three-tiered licensing system for medical marijuana growers based on how many plants they raise. It also licenses marijuana processors, provisioning centers and dispensaries, transporters and testing facilities.
That should help legislators who have been skeptical of the medical marijuana program in Michigan feel better about the legitimacy of the distribution system and, more importantly, it will safeguard patients' access to their medicine.
On the negative side, the Legislature has crafted a system very similar to the tiered regulatory structure for alcohol in this state, which almost solely benefits the middlemen while jacking up prices for consumers. Sen. Rick Jones, a sponsor of the marijuana bill package, was also intimately involved in crafting new state regulations for alcohol distribution.
The Senate package imposes a 3 percent tax on the gross retail income of provisioning centers, which could bring in a much-needed $40 million to $50 million in revenue to the state. Half that new money will likely go toward implementation and enforcement of the regulations, which are projected to cost about $21 million annually.
The legislation will finally protect the sale and manufacturing of edibles, products such as topical oils, suckers, brownies, cookies or chocolates, that contain marijuana. It would establish maximum THC levels to be used in those products and, importantly, would protect patients' use of these products.
The legislation also gives power to municipalities to approve applications for dispensaries. That's fair. Communities should be able to decide if and where these businesses set up shop.
The package contains other provisions to track marijuana from seed to sale, which guards against the criminal element benefiting from medical marijuana sales.
While a regulatory and tax structure will benefit medical marijuana in Michigan overall, it's important this doesn't become the basis for over-regulating the drug. Other medicines not only aren't taxed, but many are actually subsidized by the state through various programs. Marijuana shouldn't be burdened with heavy regulations that push patients back into a black market.
Sen. Pat Colbeck said he worries the new rules are a de facto full legalization of marijuana, a sentiment that seems to be shared among other lawmakers. They're not.
But perhaps they should be, given the widespread support for legalization. Should that day come, this regulatory framework at least gives policymakers a starting point for regulating recreational use of pot.
If the House approves the bills, they will give medical marijuana patients a clear system of rules to work within. That's an improvement over what they've had for the past eight years.
Port Huron Times Herald. Sept. 14, 2016
Challenge may sprout good ideas, good jobs.
We grow it. Despite our location here, in what some might consider the Great Frozen North, Michigan farmers are national and world leaders when it comes to growing food. From apples and asparagus to cabbage and cucumbers, Michigan crops feed the world — and they do it without the near-tropical conditions of a California or Florida.
We are less good at adding value to those agricultural commodities we produce in such variety and abundance. We are not horrible at it — Michigan's food processing industry ranks 19th in the nation. More than 130,000 state residents work in the food processing industry turning Michigan crops into many of the famous brands that fill grocery store shelves, from Ball Park franks and Kellogg's cereals to Vlasic Pickles and Yoplait yogurt.
Officials across the state and here in the Blue Water Area think we could do better. There are good reasons to try. Agricultural and local food processing industries create jobs, and they are the sort of jobs that can't be off-shored. In fact, we've created jobs in other states — turning our dairy production into cheese — that a crafty entrepreneur ought to be able to steal back for Michigan workers.
Those sorts of entrepreneurs and ideas are what the I-69 Thumb Region Catapult Your Craft Food and Beverage Business Competition hopes to find. The local and then regional competition aims to identify the next brilliant idea for converting a Michigan crop into jobs and profits. It is mainly looking for the niche, artisanal processes such as brewing, wine making, meat processing and more.
More than perfecting Thumb-grown beef jerky, for instance, the competition also aims to give the area a reputation that could be marketed both to like-minded producers and to foodies and tourists, a lot like the wine-growing regions of California, where the business of the Napa Valley is as much engaging visitors as it is growing grapes.
The Thumb local competition offers a $2,000 startup prize for the winning idea, and $1,000 for second place. For details or to enter, go to i-69thumbregion.org. The application deadline is Oct. 17.
Winners will advance to a regional competition offering a top prize of $5,000 to grow jobs in Michigan.
Grand Haven Tribune. September 16, 2016
Museum keeps vow to find new ventures.
This week, we received the latest edition of "River Winds," the quarterly publication of the Tri-Cities Historical Museum that informs everyone what's coming up at the Grand Haven museum and explains how some of our local history is preserved and displayed.
We couldn't help but notice that the museum is alive and well, and its staff is dedicated to its promise to find new outreach opportunities after announcing earlier this year that this past June was the last time they will be organizing the Feast of the Strawberry Moon on Harbor Island.
The museum, in a partnership with the Ottawa County Parks Department, is hosting an event at the Eastmanville Farm, 7851 Leonard St., on Saturday, Oct. 1. The Celebration Sesquicentennial Dinner will take place in the setting of the old Ottawa County Poor Farm, an interesting piece of local history with a treasure trove of stories to tell. A traveling exhibit on the Poor Farm will debut at the event, which is open to the public (advance tickets are $30 for members and $35 for nonmembers).
The museum will also be involved in the downtown Grand Haven Light Night on Nov. 18 and host the seventh annual Holiday Marketplace on Nov. 12. The winter/spring Music at the Museum series returns beginning Dec. 2, with music acts performing there about once a month.
The annual Haunted Museum is set for Oct. 22, with a revamped look that will feature a walk-through Victorian House decorated for the spooky holiday. They have also lined up some ghost and cemetery tours in October.
Also in the fall edition of "River Winds" are stories about the museum's new Lumbering Era display, a new acquisition of a marvelous stained glass window that graced two local churches for many years, and an explanation of how the donation process works.
Keep up the great work, TCHM staff! We're glad to see you're keeping your pledge in being a big part of our historically rich community.
Holland Sentinel. September 16, 2016
Quick Hits: Four thoughts on this week's news.
Community-police relations, dog parks in the city, bumper apple crop and deadly year on the Great Lakes.
1. Improving relations
As Curtis Wildfong reported Sunday, there are efforts underway to improve race relations between the community and local law enforcement. Although Ottawa County is primarily white — more than 90 percent according to U.S. Census data — there are many pockets of diverse communities, including right here in Holland where nearly 25 percent of the population is Hispanic, 8 percent is Asian and 3.5 percent is black. And a lot of people in those communities have developed a deep distrust for law enforcement. Members of the Hispanic community expressed a loss of faith in the judicial system after Ruth Borgman struck and killed Jonathan Bracamontes on U.S. 31 in the early morning hours nearly two years ago and was charged with a misdemeanor. It is that incident that has prompted the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office to start a new initiative aimed at opening dialogue with different racial communities in the county. Advocates and Leaders for Police and Community Trust formed a local group in the county last year comprised of leaders and members in the community including civil liberties organizations, law enforcement leaders and community members. Co-chairs for the committee are Undersheriff Steve Kempker and Coopersville resident Jose Gomez. We hope this initiative, along with efforts by the Holland Department of Public Safety to undercut inherent biases, prove fruitful in improving relations. It is imperative that people can trust law enforcement to do the right thing when called upon.
2. Going to the dogs
As Amy Biolchini reported Tuesday, the City of Holland is in talks to create a dog park at Van Raalte Farm and is also considering Window on the Waterfront as a possible location. "It's a need in the city that's not filled," said Parks and Recreation Director Andy Kenyon. We agree, a dog park would be a welcome addition to the city as the only options right now are to drive to the fairgrounds in Park Township or to Quincy Park in Holland Township. Both are quite a drive for anyone living in the city. We're slightly opposed to putting it at Van Raalte Farm simply because, again, most people who live in the city would have to drive there to get to it. Same with Window on the Waterfront. While Window on the Waterfront is downtown, it's on the north side of city limits surrounded by industrial buildings and bordered by the Macatawa River. The city should work to find a centralized location within walking distance for many. We happened to notice there's a nice, empty lot on River Avenue between 16th and 17th streets...
3. Bumper crop
As Caleb Whitmer reported Tuesday, Michigan is estimating to have its biggest apple crop ever. That is great news for us apple lovers. "It's probably our biggest in history," said Rob Crane, of Crane Orchards in Fennville. Approximately 31 million bushels of apples are expected to be harvested this fall, which would be a record for Michigan and 7 million more than last year. It was just a few years ago we remember when the apple crop was devastated by a late frost and there were hardly any apples at all. Call us Johnny Appleseed, but we love going to the orchards to pick a fresh bushel to take home and make pies, sauce, crisps and whatever else we can think of! We saw Honey Crisps are already for sale at the Farmers Market this week. Now we just need to make the drive to Crane's to get our haul.
4. Worth a look
As Curtis Wildfong reported Thursday, 2016 was the deadliest year for drownings in the Great Lakes in four years. There were 74 confirmed drownings so far this year, and in Ottawa County alone there were five deaths, including three in the waters just off of Holland State Park. We asked readers in an online poll if Holland State Park should be staffed with lifeguards on duty, and 65 percent of respondents said yes while 29 percent said no. It sparked a heated debate as we noted in Thursday's opinion section with a Readers React, with comments ranging from "common sense needs to be used" to "absolutely there should be lifeguards." We're not sure one way or another, but perhaps the Michigan Department of Natural Resources should look into the viability of bringing lifeguards back to the 24 state park beaches it manages. There haven't been lifeguards on any of these beaches since 1991, which were cut due to a 9.2 percent cutback in state funding. The DNR lost nearly $800,000 of its budget, and the move to cut lifeguards saved the DNR approximately $113,000. It's worth considering once again.