Finding Your Green Zone – The Search For Marijuana Real Estate


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  • Finding your “green zone” (marijuana real estate) is one of the most important steps in starting a marijuana business
  • The geographical location of your marijuana facility is crucial as municipalities have the option to allow or not allow marijuana businesses
  • The zoning district in a municipality, as well as the type of building you search for, will be dependent on the type of facility you choose to operate.

Flashback to December 2016.  The Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act (MMFLA) had just been enacted, and Michigan’s Green Rush officially began.  Now that Michigan has passed recreational marijuana use it is an excellent time to get involved.  Second only to what type of business you want to operate, the most important aspect of getting started is finding your “Green Zone”.  Or more specifically, the perfect plot of marijuana real estate for your business.

Step 1: Find Municipalities that have opted into the MMFLA

The first step on your way to owning and operating a marijuana facility in Michigan is finding the municipality in which you want to operate.  This requires a little research both on the geographical area that will best suit your business model and understanding the ins and outs of the marijuana laws in that specific city.

Since the inception of the MMFLA, each municipality has had the option to choose whether or not they wanted to opt into the act and allow medical marijuana businesses to operate in their city.  This process is legitimized by the drafting and implementation of a Marijuana Ordinance. These ordinances set the rules of operation for medical marijuana business owners.

The typical marijuana ordinance follows the same general outline, discussing the specifics of operation rules ranging from what hours they may operate under to the building requirements each facility type must adhere to.  You may have to hire a marijuana-friendly contractor to make sure your property is compliant. We have broken down the ordinances for DetroitPontiacGrand Rapids, and more on our Blog!

Step 2: Understand the Zoning Restrictions in Your Municipality of Choice

This step is crucial in the creation of your marijuana business.  After researching the laws of the city you choose to operate in, your next critical task is comprehending and adhering to that city’s zoning ordinance.  

The zoning ordinance is a second document created by the city, outlining which facility types can be located in each zoning district.  If your facility is located in the wrong zone, your license application at both the state and local level will surely be denied.

Zoning ordinances also present specific buffers that affect the location and number of facilities that will be allowed to operate.  The most common buffer restriction typically applies to dispensaries, prohibiting any facility within a certain distance from a place of worship, school, or public park.  In many cases, this buffer also prevents dispensaries from being within a certain distance of each other.

Step 3: Choosing a "Green Zoned" Property

After understanding the Marijuana Facilities Ordinance and the Zoning ordinance, your final step is locating a property that meets your needs and is in compliance with both state and local laws.  

Each medical marijuana facility type has different property needs. For example, the most sought-after dispensary property is a stand-alone, small-scale retail building.  Preferably with no shared walls, its own parking lot, and is highly visible on a busy street.  Conversely, large commercial warehouses are often zoned correctly and meet almost all the needs of a grow, processing facility, secure transport or safety compliance lab.

If you are planning on leasing a property as opposed to owning one, it is crucial that you are upfront with your landlord from the start of negotiations.  The very first question you ask should be “Do you lease to MMFLA compliant and licensed businesses?”.  A worst-case scenario for the Landlord is the property’s confiscation under U.S. federal drug laws, and with this added risk comes a rent premium.  Being honest with your landlord from the beginning gives you the best odds for a positive outcome.

Finding your green zone is imperative for the success of your medical marijuana business.  Use this knowledge and find the perfect marijuana real estate for your Michigan Marijuana business!

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