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Michigan town's pot bonanza turns into a marijuana melee over corruption claims

Francis X. Donnelly, The Detroit News on

Published in News & Features

But the businesses aren’t thinking about the 8,300 residents of Menominee. They’re thinking about the 6 million people living in Wisconsin.

The pot shops estimate that 85% of their business will come from the neighboring state, producing revenue of tens of millions of dollars. That’s a lot of cheese, even for Wisconsin.

“It’s lucrative, the amount of money to be made,” former longtime Mayor Jean Stegeman said. “With a border community where no marijuana was available before, there’s an obscene amount of money to be made.”

Menominee was once a boomtown for lumber. Since neighboring Wisconsin bans the sale of marijuana, the Upper Peninsula border town hopes to cash with its own pot dispensaries, which the outfits estimate would get 85% of their business from across the border.

Menominee was once the lumber capital of the United States, and some council members said they would love to exchange one boomtown for another. It’s a depressed industrial town whose industry has fled across the Menominee River to Marinette, Wisconsin.

It sometimes seems like those fleeing businesses took Menominee’s identity with them. Billboards in Menominee advertise Wisconsin businesses. Residents get their news from Wisconsin newspapers and television stations. Detroit Lions fans are outnumbered by ones rooting for the Green Bay Packers.


How pot business limit started

The City Council originally limited the number of dispensaries in 2020 because residents were split over the issue, council members said. A statewide initiative that legalized recreational adult marijuana in Michigan in 2018 barely passed in the city with 51% of the vote.

A city committee ranked the 14 applicants based on how they would help the city in creating jobs and boosting construction. It gave perfect scores of 50 to two applicants but recommended just one of them, The Fire Station, for a license.

The other license should go to Rize, which finished third with a score of 48, the committee said. Brett Botbyl, the acting city manager who was on the committee, said the panel bypassed Lume and its perfect score because the dispensary’s proposed location would have required a special use permit.


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