Grand Rapids planners OK medical pot dispensary

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — For the first time Thursday, the Grand Rapids Planning Commission approved plans for a medical marijuana business under the city’s new regulations.

The Helping Hands Provisioning Center will go in at 3510 E. Mall Drive SE off the East Beltline near the Shops at CenterPoint. It’s also across the street from Woodland Mall.

“So exciting,” owner Tonja Stapleton told 24 Hour News 8. “This location, when I first saw it, I knew it was perfect for this land use. … It’s going to be a regional use, it’s going to serve the entire community. The mall location is perfect.”

Planning commissioners agreed the spot is a good one: it’s a commercial area and there’s enough parking.

“Personally, this seems to be a very good location for this type of operation and I think they thought it out well,” commissioner Paul Greenwald said.

Paul Kaufman, who owns Eastbrook Auto Wash nearby the new shop, raised concerns about the proximity to the Sensations Showgirls strip club.

“We already got a strip club in the neighborhood. We got a pool hall. I just don’t think that fits,” Kaufman said.

Stapleton said the dispensary will open within 120 days.

She said her father was a trailblazing black police officer in Grand Rapids and she’s excited to open new opportunities in the community.

“I love that’s it is a woman-owned, minority-owned business. As a consultant, I’ve been trying to get more people of color involved in the industry for a very long time,” she said.

After more than two hours of consideration earlier in the day, the commission rejected another plan. Detroit-based Green Skies-Healing Tree wanted to turn a longtime veterinarian clinic on Plainfield Avenue NE south of 4 Mile Road into a dispensary, but commissioners had pointed questions about multiple changes in plans and inadequate parking and northeast side neighbors said the business didn’t communicate with them.

It seemed commissioners were being cautious about setting precedent for the approval process, especially since it is believed that medical marijuana centers could become recreational marijuana shops after those rules are set by the state later this year.

“Part of what you’re doing today is setting the expectations for how these medical marijuana provisioning centers will operate,” one resident preached to commissioners.

The order in which the Planning Commission is considering medical marijuana facilities was determined by a lottery last month. Now that Helping Hands is approved, Stapleton told 24 Hour News 8 that six other applicants are no longer eligible. Those developers’ proposed sites are too close and would violate the city ordinance. One of them expressed anger with Thursday’s approval.

—24 Hour News 8’s Barton Deiters contributed to this report.

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Online:

Grand Rapids medical marijuana webpage

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