City to consider marijuana licensing, regulation


Almost a year after Michiganders voted to legalize recreational marijuana, Grand Rapids, at last, will have an ordinance in place for recreational establishments.

The Grand Rapids City Commission recently scheduled on Oct. 8 to consider the adoption of Chapter 105 of Title VII of the city code, officially titled “Marijuana Related Municipal Licensing.”

The ordinance would establish local licensing and regulation of marijuana businesses and facilities as authorized under the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act and the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act. The city commission must have an ordinance in effect no later than Nov. 1 to avoid a default opt-in status while lacking regulations on marijuana uses.

The proposed ordinance effectively will permit all marijuana facilities licensed under MMFLA and MRTMA to operate within the city once the entire regulatory framework is in place, subject to current and future zoning requirements.

Under the existing zoning ordinance, adopted and amended in 2018, medical marijuana facilities currently are allowed within the city of Grand Rapids with the appropriate zoning approval and in line with buffer requirements.

In addition to serving as a formal action by the city to opt in on recreational marijuana, the licensing ordinance will allow the city to follow up on agreements made by an applicant during the application and review process for enforcement actions if needed, and also to help support the city’s sustainability and accessibility goals.

Under the proposed ordinance, all marijuana establishments are required to report basic energy usage data to the Grand Rapids 2030 District, which will help the city better understand the energy and water needs for the industry. Energy efficiency requirements are applicable only to marijuana uses that involve the growing of cannabis, meaning any classes of grower and micro businesses.

Once approved, there will be a six-month waiting period before the city will begin accepting applications. Medical marijuana facilities licensed under the MMFLA that already have special land use approval will be allowed to continue to operate medical marijuana-related operations under their existing SLU permit until the six-month period has expired, at which point, a license application will need to be submitted. 

The city received a letter from the West Michigan Cannabis Guild praising city staff for their work in medical marijuana licensing but claiming the licensing process has been a missed opportunity in creating wealth for Grand Rapids residents.

“While we are grateful for the thoughtful work of the planning commission, the planning department and the city of Grand Rapids staff in general, we are very disappointed in the concentration of licenses and applications in the hands of a few companies — none of them long-term residents of Grand Rapids or even West Michigan,” the letter read.

To improve marijuana business and wealth opportunities for Grand Rapids residents, the guild requested the following recommendations to the city’s proposed recreational ordinance:

  • No more than three licenses should be issued to the same business, or “true party of interest.”

  • Reduce the residential setback requirement to 1,000 or 500 feet to open up more parcels and neighborhoods to marijuana businesses.

  • Implement a robust social equity program to begin to help repair the harms to communities most affected by prohibition and the war on drugs, including reduced application fees, access to low-interest loans, free technical assistance and more.

  • Opening private, adult-only and well-ventilated “consumption lounges” within the city to reduce the use of marijuana in public spaces.

The West Michigan Cannabis Guild was formed in 2018 and consists of over 100 individuals, businesses and activists advocating for policy reform and decriminalization of marijuana. 

The Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act was adopted by the Michigan Legislature in 2016 and allows for a commercial supply chain of medical marijuana, including growing, processing and retail sales through provisioning centers, secure transport and safety compliance testing.

The Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act was passed by voters in 2018 allowing for the consumption, possession and both personal and commercial production of recreational marijuana.

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