GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The future of marijuana in Grand Rapids remains at a standstill after a city commission meeting Tuesday night.
During a meeting Tuesday morning, the city commission voted against setting a public hearing on the rules for establishing recreational marijuana businesses. They instead voted to delay any action on the matter for six months, which meant it would take until at least the end of 2020 before any recreational pot shops open in the city.
They also put a moratorium on accepting medical marijuana licenses, which left 13 medical marijuana license applicants unable to move forward in opening their businesses. Commissioners cited they wanted time to modify the ordinances so they are more equitable to marginalized communities and local people who are interested in entering the business.
“It was so frustrating. The rules have been so difficult,” said medical marijuana license applicant and cannabis activist Tami Vandenberg.
Vandenberg said while she understands commissioners want to make sure the right people are given the opportunities, the longer this process takes, the more difficult it is for locals to get started.
“We’re told time and again that we’re coming up soon. We still haven’t been up, and March will make it a full year (since we’ve applied) and we’ve almost lost our building several times,” Vandenberg said.
Because the original vote was not unanimous, the city revisited the issue on Tuesday night.
Several faith leaders spoke advocating for the moratorium, saying they don’t want that kind of business in their neighborhood or near places of worship.
“We have 37% unemployment in the 3rd Ward. The ward least able to afford the impact, the negative impact, of recreational shops,” one pastor said.
Potential license holders on the other side say the moratorium was just another roadblock for budding business owners.
“I think this moratorium is making it difficult for businesses to understand and navigate the industry,” said a woman planning to open a marijuana testing facility.
Commissioner Senita Lenear originally proposed the motion to pause all action. Several commissioners, who had previously supported the motion, asked Lenear to modify the length of the moratorium or allow the 13 license applicants caught in the middle to continue under the previous rules. She would not oblige.
“There is only one applicant out of the 13, according to this morning’s feedback, that was local. So, what do we have to lose” Lenear asked. “We already have four or five local owners in the already approved 24 (medical marijuana license list.) Why not pause?”
Other commissioners argued approving the motion could open the city to litigation.
“If we were to pass this motion, we would certainly be sued on constitutional grounds that we are unreasonably taking rights from the 13 applicants who are in process,” Commissioner Jon O’Connor said as he quoted the 14th amendment.
After several failed motions, the commission was unable to come to an agreement on terms, leading to the moratorium being completely thrown out. The city was also unable to agree on a motion to put a date on the schedule for a public hearing on recreational marijuana.
The city currently has one medical marijuana shop, Fluresh on Phillips Avenue SW, which opened earlier this month.