GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Grand Rapids leaders are taking a close look at the future of "legal" marijuana businesses within the city.
Medical marijuana has been legal in Michigan since 2009, though Lansing is still tweaking how pot businesses are licensed and regulated. In that time, Grand Rapids has not allowed any "provisioning centers," more commonly known as "dispensaries."
There's a new kink in those considerations.
A statewide measure on the November ballot could make the sale and use of recreational marijuana legal, and polls suggest 60-percent of voters favor legalization of recreational pot.
Several weeks ago, the Grand Rapids Planning and Zoning Commission decided that the current ordinance was a little too restrictive. They made changes to the proposal and sent it over to city commissioners for discussion. In a six to one vote, city commissioners decided that the changes were a little lax and they opted to go back to the initial ordinance.
"It's much easier to loosen restrictions, than once you've allowed something to pull it back," Managing Director of Planning and Development Suzanne Schulz said.
City leaders are also taking into account the recreational side, should it pass in November.
"The way the ordinance was written, it was trying to anticipate that recreational would be on the ballot, it's polling very high and so I think it would be naive to think that we're only dealing with medical marijuana," Schulz said.
The number of facilities allowed and specific locations is a big part of the discussion.
"Is it 40, is it 100, is it 300, what should that be set at and what do we need to think about for those areas of the city that would be affected?" Schulz asked.
Commissioners are continuing to look at how other Michigan cities are handling it.
"We've see communities like Lansing and Ann Arbor, who allowed for an unlimited number of facilities, now trying to scale back requests or do moratoriums and they're saying, it can be too many," Schulz said.
The goal is to create the best ordinance fit for Grand Rapids, the first time.
"Really what this is is a drastically changing landscape very quickly, things are adjusting both on who is involved, the location of things, the petitions, where are we and how should we regulate and how do we have that discussion, without having to go back to the community every time and saying 'oh, something else has changed'," Schulz said.
On July 10, city commissioners will meet once more at city hall at 7 p.m. to go over the ordinance and hear from the public. During the July 24 meeting, they could take up a vote on the issue.
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