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Wednesday, 25 July 2018 10:27

GR City Commission unanimously adopts medical marijuana ordinance

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GRAND RAPIDS — Grand Rapids City Commissioners on Tuesday night unanimously voted to adopt an ordinance for medical marijuana businesses in the city.

The ordinance adopted by the commission allows for a maximum of 53 “provisioning” or retail locations and 83 other facilities for growing, processing and secure transportation businesses on 620 parcels.

The amended recommendations adopted by the commission most notably calls for a 2,000-foot buffer between provisioning centers –– which many advocates feel is too restrictive –– and a 1,000-foot buffer between other facilities.

Potential users would have to pay a $5,000 annual licensing fee to the city and sign a Voluntary Equitable Development Agreement (VEDA) that allows for third-party agreements between the city, a business owner and organizations such as neighborhood groups to ensure certain goals and benchmarks around equitable investment.

Commissioners noted that the adopted ordinance closely parallels rules for businesses selling alcohol in that users could open in more traditional business districts in close vicinity to schools and places of worship, but would need permission from those organizations.

“While the map looks like there’s not a lot of opportunity in some of the traditional business zones, there are if in fact you acquire a property … and then receive a waiver,” said Jon O’Connor, a First Ward City Commissioner representing much of the city’s west side. “It’s not ruling them out, it’s saying if you’re going to come into our community, you have to be a good actor and demonstrate to the other users that the business you’re going to operate is going to be congruent and harmonious with the neighborhood and the business district.”

The ordinance takes effect Nov. 1.

Earlier on Tuesday, commissioners had discussed a “hybrid ordinance” that would have allowed for smaller businesses to gain a foothold in the space and combine retail, growing and processing into one facility.

However, policymakers noted that language in the Michigan Medical Marijuana Licensing Facilities Act (MMMFLA) does not provide for those types of businesses and the commission later dropped it from the amended ordinance.

Those so-called “microbusinesses” would be permitted under language in a ballot proposal legalizing the adult recreational use of marijuana that’s set for a statewide vote in November. Should that pass, commissioners said they would revisit the city’s zoning ordinance and amend as needed.

“This ordinance puts us in a good position if recreational marihuana is passed by state voters this fall and gives local players the best opportunity to get into the business,” O’Connor said in a statement released by the city following the vote.

Grand Rapids officials stressed that ensuring a balance between the wide variety of stakeholders remained a top priority leading up to the vote.

“It was (about) finding that balance and making sure that neighborhoods had a voice in this process,” said Mayor Rosalynn Bliss. “That quite frankly is a top, top priority to many of us.”

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