Grand Rapids to Allow Medical Marijuana Facilities


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  • Grand Rapids passed the hybrid ordinance to allow medical marijuana facilities
  • The City Commission plans to facilitate community involvement pending recreational marijuana legalization
  • The Ordinance takes effect November 1, 2018

Yesterday was a historic day for the Grand Rapids community, and Michigan marijuana community as a whole. Grand Rapids officially opted in, passing an ordinance allowing marijuana facilities in the city. If you haven’t already, check out our overview of the original proposed hybrid ordinance released last week.

The biggest challenge the City Commission faced was how to opt in to the MMFLA without destroying the opportunity for small local marijuana businesses to get involved. They decided this will be achieved through allowing locations specifically for marijuana micro-businesses, pending the November vote on recreational marijuana.

The City Commission plans on preventing “Big Cannabis” from taking complete control of the Grand Rapids market by allowing only Michigan residents to apply for a cannabis micro-business license for the first two years. Micro-business owners will not be allowed to hold another marijuana facility license type, which is another way local business will be protected in the local Grand Rapids marijuana industry.

Amendments Made to the Ordinance:

  • Reinstated the $5,000 annual marijuana facility license fee
  • Increased the buffer distance between cannabis provisioning centers / dispensaries from 1000 ft to 2000 ft
  • Increased the buffer distance between all other facility types to 1000 ft
  • Removed language in ordinance stating “serious objectionable characteristics” regarding medical marijuana, section 5.9.19
  • Added amendment to include procedure for a VEDA  (Voluntary Equitable Development Agreement)
  • Buffer distance of 1000 ft from substance abuse clinics, rehabilitation facilities, publicly owned parks and playgrounds, schools, and churches
    • This will allow for the owner of the protected facility to waive the buffer distance with an agreement between the marijuana facility owner
  • All marijuana facilities 1000 ft from residential zones, recorded from the frontage of the marijuana facility property
    • Waiver applies in the same way as the previous amendment
    • Measuring the buffer distance from the front of the property line prevents property owners with deep parcels from circumventing the 1000 ft distance requirement

On the surface, increased buffer distances for medical marijuana facilities makes Grand Rapids a more difficult municipality to get involved in. But in reality, they did this to protect local business down the road. They discussed the fear of being too lenient, which would effectively fill the market immediately, thereby crushing any opportunity for local micro-businesses to get involved in the future. The City Commission is also seeing municipalities like Detroit, Lansing and Troy facing lawsuits, which they want to avoid.

These increased buffer distances, while serving the purpose of protecting the interests of schools, churches, rehab facilities,etc., also allow the future opportunity for additional amendment reducing buffer distances to allow micro-businesses a chance at the market. It is very difficult for a municipality to come back later and increase these distances, but lowering them to allow room for recreational businesses is a strong possibility. The $5,000 annual fee is standard in most municipalities, as the revenue is intended to defray administrative and policing costs, as well as an undetermined portion of which will be disbursed throughout the community.


  • November 1, 2018- Ordinance takes effect
  • November 1, 2018- Applications for medical marijuana facilities accepted
  • April 1, 2019- Applications for marijuana micro-businesses accepted (assuming November vote passes)
  • October 1, 2019- Applications for recreational marijuana facilities accepted (assuming November vote passes)

The Grand Rapids City Commission plans on meeting at a later date to discuss plans regarding VEDA’s and how the tax revenue will be disbursed.  But great progress has been made, and they will continue to improve.

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