Police chief expects pot legalization to impact summer tourist season.

February 28, 2019

Pentwater Police chief Laude Hartrum

Police chief expects pot legalization to impact summer tourist season.

#Pentwater

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

PENTWATER – Not too much happens in the Village of Pentwater during the winter months, but in the summer it is a destination for people from all over the country.

That is why Pentwater Police Chief Laude Hartrum set up presentations for business owners and community members to discuss how the recent legalization of recreational marijuana could impact the lakeshore town this summer.

“There are going to be a whole bunch of things that are going to happen here in the next six months,” Hartrum said to an audience of approximately 30 people in the village hall Thursday afternoon, Feb. 28. A second session was scheduled for 6 p.m.

Hartrum addresses the audience.

“We want to show you a strategy of what is going to happen this summer. It’s about educating people coming to Pentwater – people coming from out of state.”

The chief said his biggest concern is dealing with “edibles.” It’s illegal to consume edibles in a public place – just like smoking a joint is. However, controlling that is an issue. “I’m not going to be at the Village Green checking everyone’s brownie or Twinkie,” he said.

“This is probably the biggest problem we will have this summer,” he said. And it will be a problem for underage marijuana users, he said.

Hartrum went over the marijuana law using a PowerPoint presentation, explaining that it is legal to grow 12 pot plants per person in a household.

“Now you can give 2.5 ounces of marijuana to someone else,” he said. Although it is illegal to sell it.

“Back in the day, the concentration of marijuana was much weaker. Now it’s about 25 percent, and it used to be about 3 percent. These are much higher concentrations than what you may have experienced in your younger days.”

The chief explained that although it is now legal for those 21 years old and older to consume marijuana, it is illegal to be under the influence of it while operating a vehicle. A vehicle does not just refer to cars – it can be a bike, golf cart, ATV, motor boat or snowmobile, he said. Many of those types of vehicles are used in the tourist town.

“When we see someone exhibiting signs of erratic driving, we do some of the same tests for drunk driving and add a few others for drugged driving.”

The police department has had three drunk/drugged driving arrests so far this year, and two of them involved drugs, he said. That is a high number for this time of year. The offenders were likely under the influence of marijuana as test results are pending.

The village council has not yet voted whether to opt in or out of allowing marijuana businesses, such as dispensary shops, in the village.

Hartrum reminded the audience that smoking marijuana in public is illegal, which includes sitting on your front porch.

“If you’re sitting on your front porch, you can’t smoke a joint because you’re visible to the public,” he said. If you’re sitting on the back of a boat at the municipal marina watching the sunset, you better not light up. But if you’re inside the cabin of the boat, you’re out of public view.

An audience of approximately 30 people attended the afternoon session.

 

If you get caught by police, you probably won’t go to jail. You could get a warning or a ticket. “I’m hoping most issues can be resolved through warnings.”

“Everything is a civil infraction,” he said. “So you don’t have to worry about going to jail unless you’re driving, operating boat or doing something disorderly.”

Prosecution of marijuana violations will be handled on a “case-by-case basis.”

The chief pointed out “high risk areas” in Pentwater, including the pier, beach and downtown. “You’re probably going to get a ticket in a high risk area – not just a warning. We want to make sure people aren’t doing things that will get themselves hurt.”

“We’re not doing this to pick on anyone – we’re doing this to keep people safe.”

Marijuana use will be a “huge issue for our downtown businesspeople,” he said. “My goal is to make it to the end of September smoothly with no ripples. My goal is that there are no surprises. We’re not going to be jumping out of the bushes, saying, ‘Gotcha!'”

This story is copyrighted © 2019, all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

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