GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Under rules regulating land use for medical marijuana operations in Grand Rapids, city leaders have designated 41 sites in underused industrial zones where those operations can locate.
One area is along Michigan Street, four blocks north of Virginia Anzengruber’s neighborhood. She said she’ll welcome the new neighbors.
"I think it's really important that people understand that it's a drug that can really help people with a lot of diseases and ailments," she said.
But some of Anzengruber’s neighbors may not be happy with the possibility of a dispensary just blocks away from the playground outside Houseman Field stadium.
So along with requirements prohibiting the businesses within 1,000 feet of places like schools, churches and playgrounds, the public will also have a say on where any dispensary, grow operation or processor can be located.
"We will have a public hearing for each one of those requests in front of the planning commission," Suzanne Schulz, the city's managing director for Design, Development, and Community Engagement, said.
Anzengruber sees those public hearings as a good thing regardless of your opinion on medical marijuana.
"I think it's not only important for people to be able to voice their concerns, but in response to those concerns, be educated on the fact that this isn't a scary thing," Anzengruber said.
The rules adopted Tuesday by Grand Rapids City Commission are actually a series of amendments to an ordinance adopted in July allowing medical marijuana businesses to operate in the city. They cover everything about medical marijuana, from production to transportation to sales.
Some of the amendments include incentives for larger medical marijuana businesses. Operations promising to employ more than 30 people would get additional points toward winning one of the limited permits to operate.
"If someone comes in and opens a small grow in that same industrial zone that only employs four people, I really want the 30 jobs, because 30 jobs matters to me," 1st Ward Commissioner Jon O’Connor said.
Mayor Rosalynn Bliss says having medical marijuana rules in place may help the city when it comes to dealing with recreational marijuana operations after state voters approved the use last month.
"What I anticipate happening is that as the state finalizes the rules for recreational marijuana, which they have 12 months to do, probably towards the tail end, when we have a good sense of what that look like, we'll start having a conversation," Bliss said. "But I see that the work we've done around medical marijuana will really be the foundation for the work we're going to do with recreational marijuana."
Of course, there is another option.
"We could just say no," Bliss said.
Several West Michigan communities say they intend to pass on allowing recreational marijuana businesses in their communities.
"But you look at the ballot and the voice of our voters and recreational marijuana passed overwhelmingly in our city. So I think, as an elected official, I really need to listen to the voice of our community," Bliss said.
City leaders hope to have the new medical marijuana rules in effect by mid-January.
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