Grand Rapids Gearing Up For More Than Medical Marijuana


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  • City of Grand Rapids to vote on the new hybrid ordinance July 24th
  • The updated ordinance includes a potential 6th license type-micro marijuana business
  • The city has used community suggestion and research on Denver and L.A.’s marijuana policy for the creation of the updated ordinance

The City of Grand Rapids is set to be western Michigan’s marijuana hub, and the City Commission knows it.  After the Commission held a public hearing on July 10th, the Commission took a large amount of the public comment into consideration, and has created an updated medical marijuana facility ordinance.  According to the Grand Rapids website, “The draft ordinance, as prepared by the Planning Department, was developed in collaboration with the City’s Police Department, Attorney’s Office, City Clerk, and included an extensive research evaluation process.”

In developing this new “hybrid ordinance”, the Planning Department researched marijuana ordinances and zoning policies held by Denver, Ann Arbor, Los Angeles and Phoenix, and modeled their updated medical marijuana ordinance on these policies.  The Planning Department also reviewed how Lansing, Detroit, Battle Creek and Kalamazoo have addressed the issue of locating medical marijuana provisioning centers and other marijuana facilities within their municipalities .

When drafting the hybrid ordinance, the Planning Department evaluated whether the city should utilize a quota system setting a maximum number of marijuana facilities allowed, or separation distance requirements to naturally limit the number of cannabis dispensaries and other marijuana facilities. They came to the conclusion that a quota system puts an incredible burden on the administration, and may also result in a large number of lawsuits from those not receiving marijuana facility licenses, similar to Troy, Lansing, and Detroit.

As a result, they decided on a stringent separation distance system, which will naturally restrict the number of marijuana provisioning centers and other facilities that will open within the City of Grand Rapids, but allow the free market to naturally determine who is able to acquire a marijuana facility permit.  They noted this system will work very similar to how billboards are regulated in the city, with a 1000 foot distance required between each billboard.

The proposed hybrid medical marijuana ordinance was drafted to allow the adoption of a sixth license type, micro-marijuana businesses, assuming the November recreational marijuana ballot initiative passes.  The Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act (MRTMA) adds the sixth license type for the sale of recreational marijuana, and is intended to provide opportunity for small start-ups in the highly competitive marijuana industry. Think of it as a microbrewery, for marijuana.

The hybrid ordinance proposes 208 parcels available for marijuana growers, processors, provisioning centers, secure transporters, and safety compliance facilities, which allows for up to 43 non-micro marijuana facility business locations after separation distances are applied.  There are 1,253 parcels for potential micro-businesses. It seems the Grand Rapids City Commission is preparing to cater toward the recreational sale of marijuana in the future, while still allowing medical marijuana facilities in the current system.

Additional Ordinance Updates:

  • Deletion of marijuana caregivers as a home occupation, due to two very recent court decisions
  • Refinement of zoning use tables, specifically inclusion of the City Center (CC) zoning district allowance for cannabis micro-businesses, providing for marijuana processing facilities of infused products in mixed use commercial zoning districts, and allowing safety compliance laboratory marijuana facilities and secure marijuana transport facilities with administration approval
  • Addition of insurance requirements: Proof of Insurance Required – “Evidence of a valid and effective policy for general liability insurance within minimum limits of $1,000,000 per occurrence and a $2,000,000 aggregate limit issued from a company licensed to do business in Michigan having an AM Best rating of at least B++ shall be produced that includes the name/s of the insured, effective and expiration dates, and policy number. The City of Grand Rapids and its officials and employees shall be named as additional insureds. The City shall be notified of any cancellation, expiration, reduction in coverage, or other policy changes within five business days of the event.”  Limitation on the types of processing for cannabis microbusinesses in non-industrial zones
  • Additional mitigation considerations in the development of a VEDA (Voluntary Equitable Development Agreement).  A VEDA is a three party agreement between the city, an investor and a community based organization in which the investor pledges a certain amount of money that goes back into the community organization.  This could be a provisioning center pledging 2% (for example) of sales, in exchange for a license.
  • Redefining marijuana facility growers, and adding a marijuana microbusiness definition

From what we have seen, the Grand Rapids City Commission and Planning department has developed these hybrid marijuana facility ordinance changes very strategically,  specifically through researching major marijuana friendly cities like Denver and L.A., and listening to local requests to leave room for the small marijuana business owners. By allowing a significant number of micro-business parcels, it is apparent that the city is actually listening to community feedback and planning for a successful future in the local marijuana industry.

It is safe to say the City of Grand Rapids plans on being the state’s premier marijuana-friendly municipality and they are well on their way.  The commission will tentatively vote on the hybrid ordinance at the July 24th meeting.

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