Grand Rapids is the latest municipality to adopt an ordinance to allow medical marijuana facilities.
City commissioners voted unanimously last week to allow for businesses that fall under the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act such as growers, processors, provisioning centers, secure transporters and safety compliance facilities.
The ordinance allows for up to 53 provisioning centers and up to 83 medical marijuana facilities that have the appropriate state licensing and special land use approval from the city planning commission.
The planning department recommended 41 potential sites. The planning commission supports upward of 143 provisional centers and 293 other facilities. Last week’s action falls between those recommendations.
The ordinance detailed that all facilities must be at least 1,000 feet from child care centers, schools, parks, playgrounds, places of worship, substance abuse clinics, rehabilitation facilities and residential zoning districts.
The ordinance also states there should be a 2,000-foot separation between provisional centers and other marijuana-related facilities. A $5,000 annual licensing fee will be required for medical marijuana facilities.
The ordinance also states medical marijuana facilities must create crime prevention awareness training, litter and loitering control, trespass enforcement, landscape maintenance, communications with the neighborhood and documentation of compliance with the city’s anti-discrimination policies related to hiring, housing and public accommodation practices.
The city’s approval comes on the heels of the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) approving the first seven medical marijuana licenses to four businesses in Ann Arbor and Detroit a few weeks ago.
Bob Hendricks, a cannabis business attorney at Wrigley, Hoffman & Hendricks in Grand Rapids, said the state’s license approval had “very little” influence on the city commission’s decision.
“I believe what caused the city of Grand Rapids to move forward on adopting the ordinance was the fact that local citizens took the initiative to develop a proposed ballot initiative that would have been submitted, and I think still will be submitted, to the voters of the city of Grand Rapids to force the city to adopt an ordinance,” he said.
“I think when the city saw citizen-level action that represented a strong desire of the people of Grand Rapids to actually adopt an ordinance and allow medical marijuana facilities in the city of Grand Rapids, that is when the city leadership said, ‘Well, OK, we can’t wait any longer. We have to act or someone else will take the matter into their own hands and we will lose control of the process,’” Hendricks added.
One of the groups that took the initiative to raise awareness about medical marijuana was Safe & Smart GR, which started a campaign to get medical marijuana facilities on the ballot by gathering thousands of signatures.
After garnering the support, Jamie Cooper, founder of Cannabiz Connection and a member of Safe & Smart GR, was confident city commissioners would opt-in.
“These are exciting times,” Copper said. “I knew that something was going to get voted on. It was just a matter of what the restrictions were going to be. I truly believe the mayor and the commissioners listened to the people. They met us in the middle. We didn’t get everything we wanted, but we have the groundwork laid out now and we can improve from there.”
Opponents of the ordinance voiced displeasure at the July 24 commission meeting. Many cited the well-being of youth, the risk of addiction, location of marijuana facilities and the limited number of law enforcement officers in Grand Rapids.
“Currently, much emphasis is placed on the economics with little regard to our community children,” said Denise Herbert, program director of prevention services at Network180. “Our research with the Kent County Prevention Coalition shows that youth marijuana use and access increases anytime our marijuana laws are changed or relaxed, and that includes medical marijuana.”
The new ordinance comes after years of approving and then amending medical marijuana laws in the state.
Although Michigan residents voted for a statewide ballot initiative called the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act in 2008, Hendricks said it was not detailed enough. As a result, he said, medical marijuana dispensaries kept popping up everywhere.
Grand Rapids refused to allow dispensaries in the city, however. The issue finally reached the Michigan Supreme Court.
“The Michigan Supreme Court construed that … medical marijuana dispensaries were not authorized under that act,” Hendricks said. “The city of Grand Rapids was one of those communities that said, ‘Look, there is nothing in this (Michigan) Medical Marijuana Act that allows for dispensaries, and the Supreme Court said the act doesn’t allow for dispensaries, so we are not going to allow it.’”
Hendricks said in 2016, the state legislature created the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act. The law requires local municipalities to decide whether to allow medical marijuana facilities in their cities.
The MMFLA began taking applications from businesses for licenses last December and has approved seven to date. Hendricks said LARA has more than 600 applications pending and he expects that number to increase when the Grand Rapids ordinance takes effect Nov. 1.