Watson medical pot dispensary ordinance in trouble?

Scott Hershberger (left) and John Caras.

A proposal to draft an ordinance permitting marijuana dispensaries in Watson Township may be in trouble.

The Township Board Thursday evening received more public input in opposition to crafting local rules to permit the growing, processing and delivery of medical marijuana, as permitted by a new state law that went into effect in December. John Caras, a Watson Township resident, and Scott Hershberger, have asked for local officials to develop the ordinance, and the Planning Commission was directed to do so early this year.

But after hearing and reading more public opposition, Township Supervisor Kevin Travis, regarded as a supporter of medical marijuana dispensaries, told Caras, “Sorry, John, but I think we should back away from this.”

Board members read a couple of e-mails and told of a phone message opposing medical marijuana.

Mike Pavlak, in an e-mail, insisted there is “no study that proves (medical marijuana’s) benefits… A system already is in place for medical use.”

He was referring to a ballot referendum approved statewide in 2008 by 63% of the voters, in which licensed growers and caregivers can provide medical marijuana to approved patients.

Sue Zeinstra, who with husband Rod, a former Township Board member, was vocal last month in a public hearing before a packed house, wrote, “We remain strongly against this for Watson Township.”

Christine Fontaine maintained that most township residents are against developing an ordinance and “this is not agriculture, it’s a drug… I’m seriously thinking about moving (if the state-wide legalization proposal in November for recreational marijuana is approved).”

Her husband, Curtis Fontaine, said there is plenty of evidence that permitting dispensaries is opposed by Watson Township residents, saying, “You have to consider the (wishes of) township residents.”

Bob and Brenda Sikkema appeared at the meeting and Brenda told board members, “I have four children, and the thought of 1500 marijuana plants next door is distressing.”

Bob Sikkema said he is a teacher in the Allegan school system and has personally seen “the public devastation” as a result of the substance.

Caras told the board he believed the well attended public hearing last month showed a fairly even split between supporters and detractors, and he suggested perhaps those opposed are more motivated to be vocal about the issue.

He said he and Hershberger both are military veterans who want to provide medical marijuana to other veterans in the area with their small business, Symponia Farms, where they now raise fish.

Caras said surveys have shown that close to 70 percent of American adults now support legalization of medical marijuana.

Travis, though appearing to be changing his position, still insisted Attorney General Jeff Sessions can’t do anything about medical marijuana use and provisions if the state law id followed.

Another latecomer to the meeting said he opposed the idea because it will take away from Watson’s rural, agricultural atmosphere.

Trustee Chuck Andrysiak agreed, saying, “I don’t want us to become a Plainwell or an Otsego. Let’s keep our dirt roads. To me, cities are a cancer.”

Hershberger said he and Caras asked the township to draft a proposed ordinance and start the conversation. He has noted that the new dispensary law permits local government units to better regulate where and how medical marijuana is provided.

Travis finally commented, “I’ve gotten to the point where I’m sick of having meetings about marijuana. If we were voting on this now, I’d be a ‘no’.”

Andrysiak, a member of the Planning Commission, suggested clear direction very soon is needed because the commission could take up its ordinance drafting task as early as March.

“Maybe we should decide before March (whether to continue),” Andrysiak said. “Let’s not waste the Planning Commission’s time and money. We need to decide whether we’re going to proceed or not.”



  • The fine folks from Watson township have spoken for their township. Unfortunately, the state vote later this year may take away all their correct objections. The medical marijuana is now law, but the dopers want it available to everyone.

    My hope is the sane folks in this state will vote against legalizing marijuana use for everyone. We have enough problem with our other legal, but excessive alcohol of drunk driving by idiots usually harming everyone but themselves if they do get into an accident.

    My heart goes out to all those having a police officer having to tell them their loved one will not be coming home. And I’m sure there are many officers not sleeping well because of their duty to inform the families of the tragedy.

    • Free Market Man:
      1) The fine folks from Watson have NOT spoken for their township. There are 2000+ residents in Watson Township. We have heard from a few narrow-minded residents such as yourself quite repeatedly; but not by any stretch of imagination a quorum.

      2) The “dopers” you are referring to are disabled veterans, cancer patients, opioid survivors, PTSD sufferers, etc., etc, etc. You have a neighbor close to you who was borderline diabetic, 130 lbs. overweight, heart problems, looming gastric bypass which he was not expected to survive and the list continues. He spent two years on big pharma solutions till finally reaching a breaking point (suicidal). He lost his business and was close to losing his family. He was prescribed a “doper” solution; which has no THC content and can be sold over the counter (OTC). He has since lost 80 lbs., does not need a gastric bypass, is not diabetic. He’s definitely a doper now (an oil-based CBD product, which is ingested, not smoked).

      3) The “sane” folks of Watson are not represented by your outlandish, unfounded, illogical opinions. As of this moment, Michigan is poised to vote in November 2018 for recreational marijuana (71% support). I’m afraid the “sane” members of Watson are a minority; which a 2008 vote proves. Of course, “sane” would imply there is a converse insane populous as well. This is not the case here which is why there are quotes around sane. Replace “sane” with uninformed, ignorant, narrow-minded, whatever, but definitely not anything based on fact or logic.

      4) Concur — Alcohol abuse is a significant problem, opioid abuse is significant, meth is significant. Marihuana? The federal government has made the statement “its not a drug of interest.” Also: For those of you who want to move if Watson approves an ordinance: MOVE. If you want to move if the state votes in favor of recreational marihuana, MOVE now. I say this because Oprah has made that statement along with other entertainment stars, but rarely does it happen. Also, have you ever heard of the expression, keep your friends close and your enemies closer? If cannabis is truly your enemy, is this the time to run and hide? What about your families, are they going to move as well? I doubt it. If they do, I say good riddance and happy trails. Our founding forefathers confronted the untamed frontier head-on and would never consider pulling up tent stakes because of some opposition. Get a grip, regroup and re-engage with some real dialogue.

      5). With regards to the “so called veterans,” you’re treading a shallow stream, laden with rocks and the wind is not at your back [You’re showing up to a gunfight with a plastic fork].

  • What people do not understand is it is already being grown in the township legally and continue to be grown legally under the 2008 statute. The township was trying to work with the proprietor in the hopes of having some regulatory control and another revenue stream. Now, without the ordinance they will tweak their plans and work under the 2008 law and there is nothing the township or it’s residents can do about it. The vocal opposition has not stopped medical marijuana from being grown but they have stopped any say or revenue to the twp.
    It was failed to be mentioned that one of the letters read at the twp meeting had an accusatory tone and used language such as, ‘so called disabled veterans.’ Which is inflammatory and offensive towards these veterans whose wounds and scars may not be visible.
    PS the federal government has allowed 0 dollars towards prosecuting anyone following their states medical marijuana laws.

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