LOWELL, Mich. (WOOD) — Kent County’s first recreational pot shop is coming soon, but it won’t be in Grand Rapids.
The first will be in the city of Lowell, a town that boasts about 4,000 residents.
It’s been more than a year since the City Council decided to allow recreational marijuana in the city limits.
“About 58% of the electorate in the city wanted adult use marijuana, and the City Council, they were honoring the vote of the people of the community,” said Lowell City Manager Michael Burns.
The City Council made some rules: Facilities must be 1,000 feet from schools and preschools and out of downtown, literally on the other side of the tracks.
“Basically, west of the train tracks is the best way to explain it is where we’re allowing the facilities,” Burns said.
They will allow for all types of facilities — grow, boutique, testing and entertainment.
The city decided against medical because the rules are more burdensome, and the tax benefits are not as generous.
Burns expects there will be a handful marijuana facilities at first, but as competition continues, he does not expect there to be many operating in Lowell in a few years.
The reason: The small town has seen prices go up for the properties that are zoned for marijuana.
“We’ve restricted it already. Let’s just basically let the free marketplace decide,” Burns said. “I’m pretty confident two or three will be submitting applications in the next month or two.”
But the first to get in and ready to go is Med Café. The shop is expected to open at a former video store that closed in November. It’s owned by Ada resident Mike Atkins who has a background not in marijuana, but in business and is already operating a recreational facility in Rogers City.
“They were pretty open and transparent through the whole process and I know they’ve even reached out to people surrounding them in the community to try and educate people about what they’re doing and what they hope to accomplish,” Burns said.
The management of Med Café is equally happy with the city.
“Great, everything’s been great for sure. They’ve been open and willing to allowing us to get off the ground,” said Kyle Miller, director of strategic operations for Med Café.
Burns said citizens seem OK with the prospect.
“I’ll be honest with you, ever since we opted in, I have maybe taken one call,” Burns said
Perhaps the most outstanding feature of Med Café’s location at 1965 W. Main Street is the adroit choice of location — the parking lot of a Taco Bell.
“We definitely are in talks with their manager over there, letting them know that opening week through the next couple months, you might want to anticipate some high traffic,” said Casey Cole, director of operations, who has a long retail resume.
Miller also has a long history of political work and legalization advocacy and operates a grow facility in Ionia.
“We were kind of hoping for Feb. 1 in the beginning, but as things progressed, we’re looking more like the third week of February to the end of February,” Cole said.
The shop will also need a final state inspection before opening, leaving them subject to the State of Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs’ timeline.
They will have one of the larger marijuana retail facilities in the state on a main thoroughfare with lots of room and visibility.
They have seen the experiences of other shops that have opened up in the last weeks in other parts of the state and say they are ready.
Lowell police will also be there to keep an eye on things.
“We have been preparing for the best way to manage the lines. We will have tents out there and somebody directing the traffic and keep the cues set up,” Miller said.
They are going to check with the city to see if people can camp out the night before and they will have the final instructions for buyers on their website before opening.
They will have flowers, vapes, extracts and edibles, though edibles are in extremely low supply in the legal market.
They hope to avoid the experience of other shops that have found themselves running out of product on opening day.
“We’ve been able to stockpile a good amount of inventory, but the demand is high and the amounts of legal, licensed cannabis in the market is low,” Miller said.
Owner Mike Atkins has more plans that include a grow facility not far from the retail shop.