GRAND RAPIDS — Two Grand Rapids City Commissioners have signaled their support for more liberal zoning regulations for businesses in the medical marijuana industry.
Commissioner Jon O’Connor of the First Ward said he supports recommendations from the city’s appointed planning commissioners, while Second Ward Commissioner Ruth Kelly favors less restrictive land use policies than those recommended by city staff, saying she “hopes to meet in the middle.”
The latter plan would make available about 40 licenses for medical marijuana businesses in the city, as MiBiz previously reported.
The sign of support for more liberal zoning policies come following a lengthy public hearing last Tuesday night during which more than 30 citizens voiced their support for the Planning Commission recommendations. One person spoke in opposition to medical marijuana.
While it’s unclear when the City Commission could consider the issue, O’Connor said he planned to make a motion that the body vote on the looser regulations as opposed to those put forward by city staff.
Likewise, Kelly said she was moved to support the Planning Commission recommendations after several speakers stated that medical marijuana helped them overcome opioid addictions.
“The public hearing was helpful as have been emails on this subject,” Kelly wrote in an email to MiBiz. “Clearly we heard that the planning department’s original land use mapping was too restrictive, and heard too that there needs to be thoughtful planning so that we have a balance of amenities in our business corridors. After seeing additional options I’m sure we’ll be less restrictive with the land use.”
To Kelly’s statement, multiple studies have shown that medical marijuana can be helpful in treating opioid addiction. The state of New York on Thursday announced that anyone prescribed opioids could request medical marijuana instead.
It’s unclear if support from O’Connor and Kelly for more lax land-use policies will be enough to pass the Planning Commission’s proposed ordinance. Other city commissioners did not respond to requests for comment.
Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, a voting commissioner at-large, said she believes it’s too early to say which way the commission might go when the issue comes up for a vote.
Speaking to MiBiz following a ceremonial ribbon cutting ceremony at Huff Park in Grand Rapids on Friday afternoon, Bliss said the city continues to receive comments from citizens who didn’t attend the public hearing. She wants officials to weigh as much feedback as possible before making policy.
“My thought is we need to be thoughtful and we need to be balanced,” Bliss said, noting the “complex” land-use issues associated with the medical marijuana industry, which includes retail provisioning centers, growing operations, processing facilities and transportation of the medicine.
“This isn’t about not being supportive of medical marijuana — all of us have said we are absolutely supportive of people having access,” Bliss said. “It’s just a matter of how do you make sure that happens.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated to clarify that City Commssioner Ruth Kelly favors a more liberal medical marijuana ordinance than put forth by city staff, but not necessarily the proposal put forth by the Planning Commission.