AP NEWS

Resident panelists chosen for Ludington’s Recreational Marijuana Committee

March 7, 2019

Ludington residents have chosen from among themselves who will be the three panelists — who aren’t city officials — on the ad hoc Recreational Marijuana Committee.

The resident panelists chosen are Natasha Worden, Shawnee Chapa and Steve von Pfahl. The other members of the committee will be councilors Kathy Winczewski, Dave Bourgette and Angela Serna, as well as John Terzano as a liaison from the Planning Commission.

The city formed the ad hoc committee to research the potential positives and negative impacts of permitting recreational marijuana businesses within Ludington city limits. The committee is expected to present a report of its findings to city council in the coming months.

“I want to make sure that any information that (will be) collected is fair and unbiased,” said Mayor Steve Miller, who chairs the committee. “(The panelists will) seek out empirical data that is not biased by their own opinion, their own emotion or their own prejudices.”

Six residents ran for the committee seats, but only three could be chosen as panelists.

The panelists were decided by a written vote, cast by each of the other residents present in the audience during a public meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Ludington City Hall. In order to be eligible, the volunteers and voters had to be residents of the City of Ludington, who are registered voters age 21 or older. There were 19 voters total, including the six candidates. The three who received the most votes were chosen.

Before the residents cast their votes for who should be picked as panelists, each volunteer made a personal statement explaining who they are and what qualities they would bring to the committee.

The candidate who received the most votes — 17 — von Pfahl, age 71, said he has had a long career as a statistician, computer scientist, financial analyst, drug counselor and more.

“I know how to collect data. I know how to analyze data, and I know how to put that data to work,” he said.

He said he would examine how marijuana has impacted several different factors in many different communities throughout the United States and world, such as crime and people’s need for drug recovery programs.

“I would look to gather data from towns, organizations and regions that showed us what the effects of the changes in law have been,” he added.

Worden, age 32, introduced herself as a scientist with a doctorate in plant biology and 10 years of research experience, much of which is gathering data and writing reports.

“I think it’d be fascinating to dive in and learn more about this subject,” Worden said. “I appreciate the city council keeping an open mind and wanting to make a decision based on fact ... I’m really interested in finding facts, maintaining an unbiased opinion and looking at these facts logically and rationally. That’s something I think I have the temperament and the experience to do. I love living in Ludington, and I want to help the best I can.”

Worden received 13 votes.

Chapa, age 28, introduced herself as a volunteer in the community, a medical marijuana card holder and a concerned parent.

“I’ve done all my research, I have personal experience with my medical card, and I would like to see what happens with my children growing up in this world with recreational being legal. Obviously I’m pro-medical, but recreational is a little bit different story,” Chapa said, adding that she wants to help research the issue.

Chapa also received 13 votes. The candidate to receive the next most votes was Adam Johnson of Safe Harbor Credit Union, with nine votes. The other two candidates each got three votes.

Miller will officially appoint the panelists the group has chosen and the city council is expected to confirm his appointments to the committee during its meeting Monday, according to Miller.

BUSINESS BAN

Proposal 1, which legalized recreational marijuana in Michigan, was passed 1,944-1,623, by voters in Ludington during the November 2018 general election.

The city council on Dec. 17, 2018, passed a temporary ban on all recreational marijuana businesses within city limits, with the condition the council must vote again on whether or not to allow the businesses within 60 days of the State of Michigan finalizing its marijuana licensing regulations.

The ad hoc committee is tasked with investigating the recreational marijuana issue and presenting its report to the council before the councilors must vote again on whether or not to keep the business ban. The committee is expected to gather objective, empirical data from other states and municipalities that have gone through the marijuana legalization process, including information on changes to the economy, crime statistics, insurance rates and claims, as well as health benefits, concerns and other issues, according to Miller.