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City approves first reading of marijuana consumption lounge amendment; Public hearing later this month

First District Three Rivers City Commissioner Pat Dane (left) and Three Rivers Mayor Tom Lowry (right) listen to discussion Tuesday about a possible ordinance amendment to allow for special permit consideration for marijuana consumption lounges in the city. (COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON)

By Robert Tomlinson
News Director

THREE RIVERS — A proposed amendment to Three Rivers’ marijuana ordinance took a step forward this week, but could be facing a bit of an uphill battle ahead.

The Three Rivers City Commission approved Tuesday the first reading of the amendment, which would allow for consideration of marijuana consumption lounges for special use permits in the city’s central business district, the B-3 zoning area, which spans the downtown area.

A public hearing on the proposed amendment prior to final approval will take place at the commission’s next meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 19 at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

The voice vote on approving the first reading was 5-1, with First District Commissioner Pat Dane dissenting and Second District Commissioner Steven Haigh absent.

Commissioners are considering the amendment after it was brought to the planning commission via a petition submitted by Daly Broekema, owner of recreational marijuana retailer Daly Dope. As previously reported by the Commercial-News, according to the petition, Broekema wrote that she wants to open a consumption lounge on the third story of her business at 113 Portage Ave. and also host cannabis education classes. The third story of the building is currently vacant.

“This is a rapidly evolving industry and being able to provide a safe and legal environment to educate consumers would be pivotal for our community,” Broekema wrote in her petition.

The planning commission unanimously recommended that the amendment be considered by the city.

Commissioners had many questions about the proposed amendment during discussion, particularly when it came to safety and legality. Third District Commissioner Chris Abel asked Police Chief Scott Boling, given that many people could be driving vehicles after visiting such an establishment, whether there is a legal limit for marijuana in a person’s system. Boling replied that, technically, there isn’t, and that it’s a bit challenging for police officers.

“It’s one of the problems law enforcement faces. The state and law enforcement agencies are working on how we enforce this. It’s kind of complex, but what we’re looking for is, as you would a drunk driver, poor driving, and then you’re looking at the presence of the chemical, THC, in the blood stream,” Boling said. “The problem is the THC metabolizes so fast into a different chemical that is not illegal to have in your blood stream. So, like where you may get stuck for drunk driving and do a preliminary breath test to help with your probable cause, there’s not a proven breath test for marijuana consumption.”

Abel followed up by asking whether or not there have been successful convictions for marijuana-impaired driving, and Boling replied there have been “very few,” and that laws “haven’t caught up” yet with new marijuana laws in the state.

“That makes it challenging on us. I’m not saying it’s impossible, I’m not saying we’re not doing it, but it makes it more difficult per se than drunk driving,” Boling said. 

Mayor Tom Lowry added that “the science isn’t there yet” and that there isn’t a “standard test” for determining marijuana impairment that has been “universally agreed upon” as of yet.

“The percentage of THC does not correlate with levels of impairment,” Lowry said. “So, they’re trying to find other chemicals that can perhaps be used instead, but the science is not there yet. That’s one of the drawbacks.”

Dane then chimed in, asking why the city is even considering allowing for consideration of consumption lounges if there’s so much uncertainty with enforcing impaired driving when it comes to marijuana.

“There’s no laws that can protect anybody. I mean, the police chief just said that. So, to me, why are we even discussing it and putting it to a first reading when it just shouldn’t happen?” Dane said. “Maybe we need to wait until the laws catch up with where we’re at now. It just doesn’t make any sense that we would want people to smoke and they’re not going to limit how much they can smoke and then they can go get in their car and go home.”

Dane added that she still doesn’t want Three Rivers to be the “capital of St. Joseph County” when it comes to marijuana.

“Let’s just stay where we’re at and see how it plays out,” Dane said. “I don’t know what the hurry-up after a couple years [is], to now have a lounge where they can sit there and smoke and get in their car and go home, or be exposed to other people.”

Both Dane and Fourth District Commissioner Carolyn McNary said they expected more people to be at the meeting to comment on the issue, but Dane said that given the first anybody heard of it was last week, people “haven’t had time to digest it.” To that, Lowry said he believed the first reading should go through so that people have that chance to be aware of it before the public hearing on Sept. 19.

Additionally, Lowry suggested possibly adding a sunset clause to such an amendment of one year with a staff evaluation and not have it be an automatic renewal.

“I’d be willing to try it for a year, I’ll say that, and see what happens,” Lowry said.

Planning Commission Liaison John Beebe said that there are currently two consumption lounges that are operating in the state, with one located in Hazel Park in southeast Oakland County and the other located in Kalkaska.

If the ordinance gets approved, Three Rivers would be the first municipality in St. Joseph County to allow for consumption lounges to be considered in a business district.

In other business…

  • Commissioners approved a change order from FPE SunSource for an extra $143.93 for a ferric pump, a purchase order that was previously approved by the city, due to FPE SunSource forgetting to add shipping costs to the invoice. Wastewater Treatment Plant Superintendent Taylor Davis said he “wasn’t happy” with the change order, as the pump has already been installed, and that they may consider not using the company anymore because of this issue. The change order was approved 5-1, with At-Large Commissioner Lucas Allen dissenting.
  • Commissioners unanimously approved a purchase order of $16,281.75 to J.C. and Sons for emergency tree removal and forestry mowing during the city’s force main break.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 or

One Reply to “City approves first reading of marijuana consumption lounge amendment; Public hearing later this month

  1. This is a terrible idea.
    There’s no reliable way to test for intoxication and this incentivizes getting drugged then driving.

    What are they thinking?
    Being too liberal has consequences.
    You’re allowed to say NO.

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