Battle Creek is getting ready to welcome recreational marijuana businesses.
City Commissioners voted to move forward with a new ordinance package that will allow six types of marijuana licenses: grower, processor, transporter, retailer, safety compliance and microbusiness, which will allow owners to grow, process and sell up to 150 plants under a single license.
Tuesday night’s meeting was the first reading of the ordinance. Commissioners will vote on final approval later this month.
There will be no cap on the number of facilities allowed Battle Creek, but their locations will be governed by zoning laws and setback restrictions.
Retailers and micro businesses will be permitted in commercial districts, but they must be located at least 1,000-feet from other facilities dispensing marijuana. This includes medical marijuana facilities.
Growers and processors will be restricted to industrial zones and must be at least 1,000-feet from churches, day cares, schools, parks and residential areas.
The city currently has two approved medical marijuana provisioning centers and more than 35 pending applications.
The number of medical marijuana provisioning centers “is the starting point if the city commissioners adopt the adult use,” City Planner Eric Felt said. “There are very few spots available for adult-use recreational facilities and adult-use micro businesses.”
A live map of the properties available for marijuana retail development is available on the city’s website.
Battle Creek will not allow special licences for designated marijuana social clubs, places where people can go and consume the drug, because the city leaders felt there were too many potential health and safety risks.
“In talking with Chief Blocker and some other commissioners, we just felt like at this point, we should prohibit them because, number one, for several of those licenses — the on-site, the special events — there’s a high likelihood the folks that are consuming marijuana are going to be driving there,” City Attorney Jill Steele said. “This is so new, we felt like at this point…let’s prohibit those special licenses. Let’s kind of see where things go with it, and then we certainly could amend it in the future.”
Unlike with medical marijuana facilities, the state is requiring municipalities who don’t want recreational marijuana businesses to specifically opt out. If a local government doesn’t pass any regulatory laws restricting recreational marijuana facilities, then the state will grant licenses to operate those businesses under the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act.
Michigan will begin accepting applications for recreational marijuana facilities Nov. 1, so any local regulations must be in place by then.
“You’re automatically opted in unless you do something,” Felt said. “I think the city commissioners wanted to be in a more progressive position rather than reacting to this.”
The Board of Commissioners plans to vote on the ordinance at the Oct. 15 meeting.
Recreational marijuana is expected to be a significant source of revenue for the state. Once recreational sales are fully implemented, the House Fiscal Agency estimates the 10% excise tax on marijuana will bring in $949 million. Fifteen percent of that money will be directed toward municipalities with recreational marijuana facilities.
In Battle Creek, marijuana businesses will put vacant buildings back into productive use, which will provide a boost to property tax revenue in the city, Felt said.
“We’ll likely see, perhaps, more aggressive site acquisition,” he said.
The marijuana industry has already brought business to Battle Creek.
The Cannabar, a medical marijuana facility on Columbia Avenue, just became fully licensed by the state and will open within the next few weeks.
Owners Tom and Melissa Tatar plan to apply for a recreational license as soon as they become available.
Pam Sparks is the manager of The Cannabar and said she was glad that the city is supporting marijuana businesses.
“It’s long overdue,” she said. “I think it’s the safest way to go. It takes it off the black market, and everything sold at a dispensary is tested and approved by the state.”
And the customer base is already here, she added.
“People want to smoke marijuana…It was almost a $2 billion industry in Colorado last year with $300 million in excise tax,” Sparks said. “So it’s good business for everybody.”
City officials hope recreational marijuana will attract new companies and bring more employment opportunities to the area.
“This industry is evolving. It is still a very young industry in the state of Michigan,” Felt said. “Investors are looking at Michigan.”
Contact Elena Durnbaugh at (269) 243-5938 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @ElenaDurnbaugh
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