THREE RIVERS, Mich. (WOOD) — Three Rivers city commissioners are considering expanding the city’s marijuana ordinance to include cannabis lounges.
If the proposal passes, the new ordinance will also allow lounges in the central business district, which includes downtown. Behind the petition that led to it was Daly Broekema, owner of the dispensary Daly Dope, who couldn’t expand her business because of how the ordinance reads now.
“It was just strictly retail spaces and safety compliance, I believe. They didn’t say no, they just didn’t put it in the ordinance. So that was why we’re going back to see if maybe Three Rivers would be open to it,” she explained.
City commission passed the proposal’s first reading 5-1, putting Broekema one step closer to converting the third story of a decades-old building on Portage Avenue into a combined space. One section of the 1,500 square feet would be a social lounge open during business hours, where food and nonalcoholic drinks would be allowed. Broekema believes it would provide a social setting to those wanting to smoke safely without the need for alcohol.
“For example, I know a lot of people that have kids at home and they don’t want to go home to smoke. We really don’t want to sit in our cars and do it either. And it’s not legal to walk around (and consume marijuana), so it gives people a legal, safe space to consume,” she added.
The remaining space would be dedicated for events and education to help teach the basics of cannabis and how to use it safely.
“This whole cannabis venture is new, and not a lot of people are educated on it. I think there is still a very negative stigma around it and I’m hoping that we can get rid of some of that,” Daly said.
Not everyone is on board. As the lone no vote, city commissioner Pat Dane, who represents the city’s first district, was gravely concerned given that marijuana is still illegal at the federal level.
“I don’t know, as a commissioner, how I can vote yes for something that I swore to uphold: the laws,” Dane said. “How can you prohibit smoking in public places, but yet you want to put a lounge in for people to smoke?”
With recreational marijuana legal at the state level, Broekema said she wants the chance to clear the air on what she believes is a stain on an up-and-coming industry.
“People look at cannabis like it’s just this abused recreational drug and there’s a lot more to it than that, so I would like to help educate people,” she said.
The public hearing for the proposal’s second reading is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 19. If it is passed and adopted, Broekema said the lounge would open by summer 2024, pending special permits.