Grand Rapids puts brakes on medical marijuana ordinance

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- The vote on recreational marijuana is just around the corner, and the City of Grand Rapids was set to go down another path, but commissioners voted this week to put the brakes on the medical marijuana ordinance the city adopted back in July.

The city decided to put a six-month moratorium on allowing medical marijuana facilities, saying they want to take a closer look at how it will effect the community before moving forward. Some growers and distributors say the decision is a major blow to their business, with many ready to apply for licenses on November 1.

“I felt really hurt that a lot of people that put a lot of time and effort into this to get Grand Rapids to move forward with this decided to take a 180-degree turn,” says West Michigan marijuana grower James Overholt Jr. "I felt betrayed. I felt lied to."

The pro-marijuana community says its stunned the Grand Rapids City Commission changed its mind about the medical marijuana ordinance and that many were ready to invest time and money.

“These are reputable business people wanting to put resources into the Grand Rapids area and started to and then had the carpet jerked out from under them,” says Overholt.

Investors in the marijuana industry also disagree with the freeze.

"When the government comes in and completely upends the earnest work people have put in, I don't think that's right or that's fair," says committee chairman for the National Cannabis Industry Association, Matt Hoffmann, "because there were plenty of groups that had met as much of the requirement set by the city and state as they could. And they were ready to apply by November 1. Now, all the work, all the time and money they had to put in to make sure they met that deadline was for nothing."

The Grand Rapids planning director says the commission is going back to examine the ordinance to make sure it's right before it goes into effect.

"There’s millions of dollars at stake, and they want to make sure they are getting it right," says planning director Suzanne Schulz. "Concern, though, is how much is too much of a good thing? Given that Grand Rapids is the only one in the region that would allow for marijuana facilities, how many facilities and what impact do those facilities have on surrounding areas is a concern to the commission.”

There's also a lot of interest in what will happen if recreational marijuana passes on November 6.

“Right now, the current ordinance is for medical marijuana, but in early discussions with the city commission we did anticipate recreational marijuana to some degree," says Schulz, "and so there are neutral marijuana statements in the current ordinance that would allow for some recreational."

And if it does pass the vote, it wouldn't go into effect immediately.

“If recreational marijuana is approved in November and becomes effective, the state has a year to make rules to allow for recreational marijuana," Schulz noted. "So, regardless of what happens the first year, after that becomes law, we would be waiting until the state has their rules, and then we would pass a local ordinance."

A workshop is scheduled for October 6 to discuss details on the Grand Rapids medical marijuana ordinance. The moratorium is set for six months but could end sooner if the commissioners agree on an ordinance.

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