Muskegon County

Medical pot revitalizing blighted Muskegon properties

MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — Commercial-sized medical marijuana facilities are set to soon start popping up within Muskegon's city limits.

The businesses will offer much more than dispensaries and cultivation centers to West Michigan. They'll also give shuttered parts of Muskegon southwest of Seaway Drive and Laketon Avenue a multimillion-dollar facelift.

"Muskegon is definitely ahead of the curve," said Connie Maxim-Sparrow of Sparrow Consulting, who represents medical marijuana growers and entrepreneurs.

Maxim-Sparrow told 24 Hour News 8 that earlier this year, Muskegon city leaders became the first in the area to approve an ordinance allowing commercial medical marijuana production and retail stores.

"The only licensed facility, and it's not even licensed, is in Crockery Township and they're under a temporary operating permit," Maxim-Sparrow explained. "So anything west of Lansing, there is nothing licensed under the current state law."

The ordinance allows the dispensaries in an area that includes 20 properties. Most are currently home to dilapidated buildings.

"Right now, 15 are sold for three times their value prior to Muskegon opting in (to the medical marijuana program). That totals about $5.3 million in real estate sales in the last two months for three square miles," Maxim-Sparrow told 24 Hour News 8.

Dan Sparrow, Maxim-Sparrow's husband, is the chief operating officer of Inferno Gardens. It's one of the businesses that purchased sites in Muskegon for medical marijuana growth, processing and sales.

"None of this will look the way it looks today. From the fencing to the shrubbery to the facade on the building. The entire roof is getting taken off because we need a secure environment to grow our product," Sparrow said.

"There's so much commerce leaving the lakeshore going to Lansing and farther east (for medical marijuana)," he added.

The Sparrows believe the city got it right with the zoning ordinance. They expect it will create more jobs and increase tax revenue, creating a solution to a longtime problem.

"Muskegon County has fought blight for many, many years," Maxim-Sparrow said. "If anything, this is a revenue stream that's going to completely change the dynamic and visual aesthetics of this area."

The 20 designated sites will bring in at least 140 jobs, according to Sparrow Consulting.

Inferno Gardens will start hiring as early as January


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