GRAND RAPIDS — Ninety applicants must now await a lottery drawing to see when the city will consider their plans for medical marijuana-based businesses.
Of the applications that were submitted to the city of Grand Rapids by Friday’s deadline, 83 were for provisioning centers or dispensaries. Six were submitted for Class C provisioning, processing and growing facilities with up to 1,500 plants. The city also received one Class A provisioning, processing and growing license application for up to 500 plants.
The city will conduct a lottery drawing to determine the order the applications will be considered. The drawing will take place at 2 p.m. April 12 in the city commission chambers.
“My best guess is we’ll probably have 30-40 provisioning centers, and maybe five to eight growers,” said Landon Bartley, senior planner for the city. “There’s the possibility to have a standalone processor as well. And I think we’ll have one or two safety and compliance and secure transfers.”
The applications are a result of the city’s 2018 decision to opt into the Medical Marijuana Facility Licensing Act. The city will continue accepting applications, but the deadline provided a first shot at opening marijuana-related businesses. The city’s criteria mandates that each of the five types of licensed facilities — growers, processors, provisioning centers, secure transporters and safety compliance — be at least 1,000 feet from sensitive-use properties (like churches and schools, among others) while provisioning centers must be at least 2,000 feet away from one another.
In instances when applicants are within those distances, their order in the lottery will determine which one the Planning Commission hears first. In that case, if the first applicant is selected, the other nearby applicant would be eliminated.
After the lottery drawing, the city Planning Commission will begin considering applications at its meetings.
A rigorous process
Local entrepreneur Tami VandenBerg, who co-owns The Meanwhile and Pyramid Scheme, two Grand Rapids bars, was among the applicants who submitted plans to the city. On Friday, VandenBerg detailed her plans to the city for a provisioning center at 2243-2249 S. Division Ave.
The application process, including finding a building that suited her vision for the business, was “exponentially more work” compared to obtaining the two liquor licenses for the two bars.
“We had a really challenging time finding property that was in the zone that was even remotely affordable because prices were skyrocketing,” she said.
VandenBerg applied with her brother, Jeff VandenBerg, and Jeff Hank, who was the executive director of MI Legalize, the group behind efforts to legalize marijuana in Michigan last year.
According to Bartley, the applications are essentially special land use applications, but with many more requirements. That includes requiring applicants to have some kind of established deal for a building and a site plan, as well as a mandate that companies hold a community meeting for neighbors.
“We know this is a new industry and want to take it sort of carefully,” Bartley said.
Applicants also needed to submit their plans to the state’s Medical Marihuana Licensing Board, which includes a prequalification step. Applicants are required by the state to have local approval for the land use and a construction permit before it will issue a license.
There are several hotspots that have higher numbers of submitted applications, according to the city, including in the areas of Leonard Street NW, Michigan Street NE and 28th Street SE.
For applicants, it’s now a waiting game. Bartley said it could be about a year until any marijuana business actually opens, based on the state and city processes.
Keeping it local
When the city first discussed allowing medical marijuana businesses, VandenBerg and others hoped the city would find ways to encourage locally-owned companies to get into the industry.
To that end, Grand Rapids put in place the Marijuana Industry Voluntary Equitable Development Agreement (MIVEDA). The agreement allows locals to have a better chance of being selected in the lottery drawing because it awards points for local residency and a company’s commitment to hiring local employees, for example.
Bartley said applicants can earn points for a number of items with the aim of encouraging equitable development and maximizing local economic impact. Once applications are reviewed for completeness, they will be reviewed for MIVEDA points.
“The more points you have with MIVEDA, the better your position will be in that (lottery) draw,” he said.