Copper or cannabis? Michigan mine could grow pot for patients

A shuttered mine in Michigan's Upper Peninsula is attracting some unusual publicity, with persistent rumours that the owners are considering growing medical marijuana.

Detroit Free Press reports that state troopers have inspected the White Pine Mine for signs of growing pot in the former copper mine, which closed in 1996:

The mine's owners want to use its underground chambers to create the state's largest pot farm with a potential market of 131,000 Michiganders (about 1 in every 75 residents) who hold medical marijuana certificates. The company, Prairie Plant Systems (PPS), already has a contract to supply medical marijuana in Canada.

PPS is the same company that had been growing and supplying marijuana for Health Canada from an old mine shaft at the Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Facility near Flin Flon, Manitoba. The operation, however, was suspended in 2009 because HBMS planned to close it this year, CBC News reported.

Canada is much more tolerant on the use of marijuana than the United States, where strict penalties in many states are in force. Cannabis is illegal in Canada, but exceptions are provided for medical uses. In Michigan, medical marijuana was legalized in 2008 but regulations around it are unclear says Detroit Free Press; before the White Pine Mine is allowed to switch from copper to cannabis, the US DEA and the state legislature would have to sign off. The DEA opposes the use of smoked medical marijuana.

The article notes  not everyone is jumping on the bong bandwagon, with some calling for the owners to resume mining to take advantage of higher copper prices than when the mine closed:

The surge in the price of copper and other metals is revitalizing interest in mining. In Gogebic County just to the south, Orvana Minerals has announced plans to mine silver and copper at the Copperwood mine near Ironwood, with production slated for 2014.

No such plans have been announced in Ontonagon County, where the White Pine Mine opened in 1952, but "that's what we're hoping for, and it looks like it's going to materialize," said Philip Kolehmainen, an area real estate broker and chairman of the Michigan Works! workforce development board.

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