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City of Grand Rapids considers public input for zoning medical marijuana facilities

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.-- The city of Grand Rapids is turning to the public for input on how and where medical marijuana facilities should be allowed to operate within city limits.

Though medical marijuana was legalized in the state of Michigan back in 2008, the city of Grand Rapids recently legalized medical marijuana facilities and will vote on a zoning ordinance at the end of July.

The first of four community meetings was held on Monday morning. In attendance was mostly medical marijuana business owners who are concerned about the limited areas that one of the recommendations would allow them to do business.

There are currently two recommendations: one from the planning director and another from the Planning Commission. The recommendation from the director would limit the eligible real estate for medical marijuana business to 41 parcels within city limits. This is due to the separation distances proposed for parcels near schools, playgrounds, churches, rehabilitation facilities, other medical marijuana facilities, residential zones and other bordering jurisdictions that don't allow medical marijuana businesses.

“The biggest thing for us is that the number of parcels currently limits it to people with large amounts of money," Jay Christopher Flemming tells FOX 17.

Flemming and his wife have been medical marijuana caregivers in Michigan for years but he’s worried about the effects the planning director’s recommendation would have on small businesses.

“If you look at those parcels, I don’t think any of them are for sale," Flemming says. "One of them was for sale within the last couple of weeks and was bought for $1.5 million.”

Under the more liberal recommendation from the Planning Commission, those separation distances are mostly eliminated, allowing for 208 parcels.

“The Planning Department recommendation started off very conservative because it is a new use and we want to gain an understanding of it and see how it works in the community," Planning Director Suzanne Schulz tells FOX 17.

One thing looming on the minds of city planners is the fact that voters may vote to legalize recreational marijuana in November. Schulz says since the time would be so short between passing an ordinance on medical marijuana and legalizing recreational marijuana, she doesn't want two sets of regulations.

“My preference would be to have one ordinance and kind of one and done with some tune-ups to it," Schulz says, "rather than having one for medical, going back and re-thinking everything for recreational.”

For the full zoning ordinance recommendations, click here.

“We definitely had industry interest here at the meeting today and I think that the discussion went really well," Schulz says. "We always welcome feedback from the community and want to hear people’s voices because I think we end up with a better result.”

There was another meeting Monday evening at Immaculate Heart of Mary. There will be more meetings on this issue on July 6 at LINC UP Gallery from 9:30-11 a.m., July 9 at Immaculate Heart of Mary from 3:30-5 p.m., and July 9 at West Grand Neighborhood Organization from 6-7:30 p.m.

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