GRAND RAPIDS, MI — While some municipalities in Michigan are rushing to prohibit commercial marijuana establishments before the state sorts out its regulations, Grand Rapids is not one of them.
On Tuesday, Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said Michigan’s second-largest city isn’t looking at opting out of the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act, citing local results from the Nov. 6 election.
“If you look at the ballot and the voice of our voters, recreational marijuana passed overwhelmingly in our city,” Bliss said. “As an elected official, I really need to listen to the voice of the community. And that spoke volumes to me.”
Grand Rapids has already set the groundwork for medical marijuana. On Tuesday, the city commission is expected to pass amendments to its zoning ordinance related to medical marijuana facilities.
Applications for medical marijuana facilities have not yet been accepted by the city’s planning department due to a moratorium put in place Sept. 18.
Suzanne Schultz, the planning department’s director, said the city expects to have the moratorium lifted early next year. Special land use applications for medical marijuana facilities are scheduled to be accepted beginning April 1, 2019, after a regulatory ordinance is approved for recreational marijuana.
“I see that the work we’ve done around medical marijuana will really be the foundation for the work that we’re going to do with recreational,” Bliss said. “We’re allowing medical marijuana and I think they’re on parallel tracks.
“When you look at the land use ordinance, I don’t necessarily see a significant difference between the land use for recreational versus the land use for medical marijuana.”
The state’s licensing and regulatory department has a year to figure out the logistics and framework of recreational marijuana facilities opening shop. Included in that are two types of facilities that aren’t shared by the medical marijuana industry — retail and micro-business — which are currently not allowed in Grand Rapids.
As the state’s regulations get put in place, the city commission will have a conversation regarding the Grand Rapids ordinance related to recreational marijuana facilities.
Bliss said she expects the state to have similar rules for recreational marijuana as it has for medical marijuana.
“As we have worked through this process and tried to identify locations to allow that type of use (medical marijuana), I see that as similar to the conversation we’re going to have around recreational marijuana,” Bliss said. “The actual facilities, whether it’s a dispensary or a grow operation, they’re going to be very similar.”
Grand Rapids adopted its medical marijuana ordinance on July 24 by a 6-0 vote. The ordinance will allow medical marijuana facilities within city limits with special land-use approval, but will limit the potential locations based on established separation distances.
Last month, voters approved Proposal 1 with 56 percent of the vote in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana. Michigan is the 10th state to legalize recreational marijuana.
As of Nov. 14, 108 municipalities in Michigan had opted out of the medical marijuana program, according to state data. In all, about three-quarters of Michigan governments have chosen to not participate in the medical marijuana program, according to a survey from the University of Michigan.
Several communities have also opted out of allowing recreational marijuana facilities, though some officials say they plan to revisit the topic down the road after getting more information from the state.