EGR voters said ‘yes’ to marijuana but officials say ‘no’

Marijuana in MI

EAST GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Marijuana shops are slowly but surely opening up in a few communities throughout West Michigan, but a proposed ordinance under consideration in East Grand Rapids means that city will not be among them. 

When the ballot proposal decriminalizing recreational marijuana passed in 2018, 60% of East Grand Rapids residents approved the act, the second highest rate of approval in Kent County behind the city of Grand Rapids. 

But a month after the November 2018 vote, the city commission voted to ban recreational marijuana businesses in the city of 10,000. 

The city commission wanted a chance to see how the state’s decriminalization worked out and to see if it was something that East Grand Rapids wanted to be a part of. 

East Grand Rapids joined every other community in Kent County, except for Grand Rapids and Lowell, in opting out of the marijuana industry. 

But that ban in EGR came with the caveat that the commission would take another look at things by June of 2020. 

But now the city says that under the rules of the state marijuana law, a medical marijuana facility cannot be within 1,000 feet of a school. 

City officials claim that nowhere in the city of 3.4 square miles is it possible to be more than 1,000 feet from either the high school or Wealthy elementary and still be in an area zoned for businesses. 

But the same paragraph in the state act that establishes the boundary requirement also allows municipalities to change the distance, if they choose to do so. 

Over the last two days, News 8 called, emailed and stopped by the homes of the mayor and all the city commission members, none of whom were willing or able to talk about the ordinance. 

But EGR resident Allison Sevensma says she hopes the city administration will reconsider the proposed ban. 

“I think it’s unfortunate that the city isn’t seeking more public input on the issue. A large percentage of voters in town voted overwhelmingly in favor of legalization,” Sevensma said. 

She says the city could use the revenue for schools and parks and other projects in the city, instead of raising taxes. 

Sevensma is working to operate a legal marijuana grow facility in Muskegon Heights, which has opted in, and she believes the EGR city officials do not understand how the business really works. 

“The municipalities in which these businesses are open have a tremendous amount of control to tell these businesses how they should look and how they should operate,” Sevensma said. “East Grand Rapids could shape exactly what a storefront or business could look like in this community.” 

The city commission will meet at 6 p.m. Monday at 750 Lakeside Drive SE for a final reading of the ordinance. 

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