EGELSTON TOWNSHIP, MI – Several communities in Muskegon County have been chomping at the bit to take advantage of a new set of rules that will allow them to regulate the growth and, in some cases, the commercial sale of medical marijuana.
One of those municipalities is Egelston Township, a largely rural part of eastern Muskegon County stretching over 35 square miles with less than 10,000 residents. Egelston, the city of Muskegon and Muskegon Heights all voted to allow medical marijuana facilities, but each are at an impasse on how to regulate them.
But unlike the others, the Egelston ordinance is mired in conflict, perpetuated by old feuds, bad blood and two diverging camps: those who forcefully support the ordinance, and those who are fighting tooth and nail to stop its passage if growers can plant roots near residential neighborhoods.
The tension has boiled over from private conversations between residents and their elected officials to fraught bickering during public meetings. Accusations have flown about perceived conflicts of interest and favoritism toward prominent business owners looking to capitalize on marijuana – all of which the township denies.
Township Supervisor John Holter said the situation is “unfortunate,” a bizarre byproduct of emotions running high over a controversial issue. The attacks on township officials have become personal, Holter said, as residents drag past grievances with old friends to the forefront of township politics.
But for some denizens of Egelston Township, the low decorum is, in their opinion, nothing new.
A fight over drug-free neighborhoods
Michigan’s Licensing and Regulatory Affairs department issued a new set of rules earlier this year that allow municipalities to regulate medical marijuana on their own terms.
At the heart of the struggle in Egelston Township is a fight over whether growers should be allowed to operate in residential neighborhoods.