Sanford carefully considering cannabis question


When Midlander Kay Sherwood goes on a “cannabis run” to Bay City, she often goes shopping and goes out to eat.

But Sherwood said she would gladly bypass the Bay City trip and go to Sanford if they offered cannabis for her arthritis pain.

The Village of Sanford is considering opting in to allow cannabis after it was proposed by resident Sue LaBonville, who is proposing a microbusiness. According to the Michigan Regulatory Agency, a microbusiness license allows the licensee to grow up to 150 marijuana plants, process them on-site, and sell products directly to the recreational marijuana consumer.


LaBonville envisions a boutique-style cannabis microbusiness that would increase foot traffic in Sanford and allow marijuana to be sold there instead of having people go to other areas to get it.

When the village council was considering the measure, more than 30 people showed up at a council meeting, with nearly all of them speaking up asking the village to opt in. However, there was one voice opposing it, saying it would increase crime and take a negative toll on the village.

JoEllen Billingsley, of Sanford, also supports bringing cannabis to the area. She joked she is tired of driving to Bay City.

The nearest places to Sanford offering cannabis are in Bay City and Loomis. Area residents said those municipalities are reaping the rewards while other areas lose out. In addition to customers generating revenue when they shop and eat out, the areas also receive tax incentives from the state.

According to the Cannabis Regulatory Agency (formerly the Marijuana Regulatory Agency), Michigan recreational marijuana sales more than doubled from 2020 to 2021. Recreational sales were $61,559,735 in December 2020 and grew to $135,039,177 in December 2021. At the same time, medical marijuana sales dipped from around $40 million in December 2020 to $33 million in December 2021.

Michigan government agencies are expected to collect $350 million of the total 2021 sales revenue.

Grower and Sanford resident Kim Methner said he used to grow marijuana for private use but doesn’t anymore, mainly because people have dropped their medical licenses and gone to recreational use.

When asked if there is a difference between the recreational and medical strains of marijuana, Methner said there really isn’t a difference.

“There are so many varieties,” he said, noting that there are some recreational strains with 35% THC that could render a person comatose. “Common strains have 20 to 25% THC.

“For many people, it is part of their lives,” Methner said, noting it helps people deal with many different ailments from seizures to panic attacks and so much more.

Methner estimates that about 70% of people who use recreational marijuana do so for the health benefits rather than just to get high.

Sanford Village Councilman Carl Hamann said previously he was the only one on the council who wanted to opt in. Now, the village is again considering the decision.

Sanford Village President Dolores Porte said she expects the village to vote on the matter on Monday, March 14. She said the village attorney is expected to complete their research and get back with the council in late February.

“If the village council adopts offering marijuana, it’s going to increase the revenue,” Porte said.

She said such revenue would help not just to rebuild the village after the flood, but also in the long-term future.

“The projection is it will bring more people to town, so it will help the businesses,” Porte added. “The true outcome remains to be seen.

“Whatever we do, people need to act with certain social responsibility,” she said, noting it is the same with alcohol sales.

Hamann said he believes offering marijuana will help. It is something people already bring into the village, so they wouldn’t be enticing people with something new.

Per the Cannabis Regulatory Agency, studies indicate an estimated 70% of cannabis sales take place outside of authorized retail stores. Council members suspect that legalizing sales in the village could help squeeze out illegal sales.

“We lost 10% of our residents and 78% of our businesses in the flood,” Hamann said, noting that some of those aren’t coming back.

He said having the extra revenue from offering cannabis would help the village restore itself.

“We should never walk away from an opportunity to support the community,” Hamann said. “We’ve lost so much revenue in the last two years. These are critical things we need to look at.”

Hamann has been in multiple discussions with areas that offer marijuana and others that are considering the venture. He said he wanted to do a lot of research on the subject. He has been talking to Wise Township officials in Isabella County.

“It’s been substantial for (Wise) Township,” Hamann said, noting that it could also offer great opportunities for Sanford.

“Now that it’s legal, there is no reason not to bring it to the village,” he said.

One of the concerns people cited about having marijuana in other areas was the strong smell. But since it became legal, there have been many technological advances that severely diminish the smell, Hamann said.

Hamann said the village is fortunate to have an attorney who has helped other municipalities navigate the marijuana field.

Porte and Hamann agree the most important voice is that of the constituents.

Hamann said he knows many veterans who rely on cannabis to help their injuries.

Per the Cannabis Regulatory Agency, an estimated 63% of cannabis users say they use it for chronic pain. Others cite using it for arthritis, muscle spasms, Parkinson’s, cancer, nausea, post-traumatic stress disorder and many other conditions.

Porte said she believes that as people discover more of what the plant can help with, more places will offer it.

Truck driver Duane Dalrymple, of Homer Township, didn’t use to believe in cannabis. After injuring his hip and having part of his leg severed, he ended up on a daily diet of 15 medications which consisted of 21 pills and a half-gallon of vodka a week. It was at his son’s encouragement that Dalrymple tried cannabis.

“I’m off all medication,” Dalrymple said. “I live, I don’t just exist, and it’s because of cannabis.”

Lee Welch, of Sanford, said his father was injured by a drunken driver, which left him on 32 medications and in constant pain. His father started using cannabis and is down to only three medications a day.

Welch said a marijuana dispensary would be great for the village, and he sees a huge benefit in opting in.

Bob Anderson, who supports bringing a cannabis business to Sanford, said it helped him quit drinking alcohol five years ago.



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