MI: Medicinal Marijuana Proposal Moves To Grand Rapids City Commission

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Photo Credit: Tracie Van Auken

Grand Rapids moved a step closer to allowing licensed medical marijuana facilities Thursday, May 24, when the planning commission established a proposed ordinance.

The proposal was unanimously approved by the planning commission during its meeting Thursday, May 24. Now it’ll go to the city commission to be considered.

City planners stressed that the proposed ordinance focuses on medicinal marijuana for the use of card-holding patients, and does not consider recreational marijuana despite a statewide proposal expected to be on the ballot in November.

“Voters in the state of Michigan have classified this as medicine,” said planning commissioner Kyle Van Strien. “So why are we treating this medicine different than other medicines, and even more restrictive than alcohol?”

The medical distinction was echoed repeatedly throughout Thursday’s meeting as commissioners relaxed portions of the proposed ordinance.

As is, the ordinance would not place a set cap on the number of marijuana facilities allowed within the city. There would, however, be separation distance requirements.

Provisional centers would need to be 1,000 feet from parks, schools, child care centers and other provisional centers. Marijuana grow, processing, safety compliance facilities and transporters would be limited to 1,000 feet from schools and child care centers, and 600 feet from other such marijuana facilities.

As is, the ordinance would not place a set cap on the number of marijuana facilities allowed within the city. There would, however, be separation distance requirements.

Provisional centers would need to be 1,000 feet from parks, schools, child care centers and other provisional centers. Marijuana grow, processing, safety compliance facilities and transporters would be limited to 1,000 feet from schools and child care centers, and 600 feet from other such marijuana facilities.

On Thursday, 12 people gave their insight during the planning commission’s public comment period. Each of them was in favor of an ordinance, and many asked for more lax regulations that allowed the market to dictate saturation.

“We have a great opportunity to bring in so much business and so many jobs,” said Tami VandenBerg, a local business owner and activist who supports the campaign.

“We care about equity, we care about our neighborhoods, and about small businesses, and if we care about those things, we’d be working hard so that as many people as possible can access this opportunity.”

MILegalize board member Michael Tuffelmire said a medical marijuana ordinance would bring the market up from underground and into the light, thus reducing crime.

He also spoke for his fellow military veterans, who he said should be considered when establishing separation distances and ensuring accessibility to dispensaries for patients with handicaps.

Dave Overholt, who once owned a medical marijuana dispensary in Grand Rapids, applauded the commission for taking a serious look at allowing facilities. The Gulf War veteran hasn’t had a pill in 12 years, and he said access to marijuana could be a big step toward fighting the opioid epidemic.

Commissioners did relax some of the original ordinance language, but kept other language designed to ensure that other businesses weren’t negatively affected by a surge of medical marijuana facilities over-saturating the market.

The city commission will review the proposed ordinance in the coming weeks. It is expected to set a public hearing for July 10 before putting it to a vote.

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