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The sprawling copper mine that stretches deep below White Pine once employed thousands of people, helping make the remote Michigan town a thriving outpost of the state’s northern hinterland.
Prices for the metal started to plummet, however, forcing the facility to shut down in 1996 and leaving White Pine a virtual ghost town. Suburban bungalows that once housed copper miners and their families now sell to vacationers for as little as $10,000.
Now a Canadian company is promoting an unorthodox form of salvation for the area, floating a plan to grow marijuana inside the cavernous mine to serve the state’s legion of 180,000 licensed pot users. Like a similar subterranean operation that Prairie Plant Systems (PPS) owns in Manitoba, the Michigan site would offer security from theft, natural climate control and little chance of contamination, its supporters argue.
Legislation expected to be introduced in both Michigan state chambers in the next week or two would set the stage for such industrial-scale production, outlining a series of standards that medical marijuana producers must meet. Michigan approved personal use of cannabis as a health product in 2008, but its somewhat chaotic implementation has undermined patient and public safety, said Brent Zettl, CEO of Prairie Plant.