MUSKEGON, MI – Recreational marijuana sales will be allowed in another six locations in the city of Muskegon.
A divided city commission on Tuesday, Sept. 8, approved the new sites on Apple Avenue, Getty Street, Clay Avenue and Washington Avenue. Another two sites on Apple Avenue could also be included.
Part of the reasoning for the expansion of the city’s existing marijuana districts was to promote social equity in access to and ownership of cannabis retail outlets.
The commission voted on two new marijuana “districts” after a second reading of a zoning amendment for the first six sites.
They voted 5-2 to include growing and processing marijuana at 981 S. Getty St., and provisioning and retail at 796 E. Apple and 935 S. Getty St.
Two of the properties are owned by Black business owners who “have waited patiently to be partakers in the marijuana industry,” said Commissioner Willie German Jr.
The idea of including those properties was to advance “social equity” in the marijuana industry in the city, according to German and city staff who proposed the new district.
Voting against those three properties were Commissioner Michael Ramsey and Commissioner Teresa Emery. Commissioner Ken Johnson switched his earlier vote and voted in favor of the three properties at the Getty and Apple intersection.
“To me, when we went down this road it was about medicine and getting patients access to their medicine,” Johnson said in explaining his “yes” vote.
Commissioners voted 4-3 to allow marijuana microbusinesses at 623 and 639 W. Clay Ave. close to downtown and marijuana retail sales at the Watermark Center, 920 Washington Ave., provided they are on the third floor or higher.
Staff said a Black-owned restaurant plans to locate with a microbusiness on Clay Avenue. Marijuana microbusinesses involve the selling only of marijuana that is grown and processed on site.
Johnson, Emery and Ramsey voted against allowing the marijuana businesses on Clay and Washington.
Staff has said the properties were chosen to help the social equity cause and also to get blighted and vacant property back into productive use. Some of the properties have businesses on them, such as Campbell’s Towing at 796 E. Apple, and being in the district doesn’t mean they have to be in the marijuana business, Muskegon City Manager Frank Peterson told commissioners.
He said not all the property owners included in the new districts were approached by city staff about their interest in becoming involved in the marijuana business.
Ramsey said that he supported social equity in marijuana businesses, but that the new districts don’t do that and that’s why he voted against them. Johnson said he would like the commission to come up with a more “methodical plan” to promote social equity in the marijuana business in Muskegon.
The addresses of two other sites at 863 and 885 E. Apple Ave. were mistakenly listed earlier as being on Laketon Avenue, and so a first reading of a zoning amendment for them was held on Tuesday. A final vote on those is expected Sept. 22.
The city currently has three retail marijuana outlets and a fourth opening soon on West Laketon Avenue, Park Street and Peck Street.
The commission significantly reduced the number of properties from 16 that staff originally proposed. Among those rejected by the city commission were a lot at the corner of Western Avenue and First Street in the heart of downtown; a shell of a building also downtown at 880 First St.; a building on Terrace Avenue in downtown where a basement grow operation was among proposed uses; and three adjacent locations on Lakeshore Drive in the Lakeside business district.
All 16 of the properties were earlier rejected by the city’s planning commission.
Some planning commissioners and members of the public said the method of hand-selecting properties to be included was problematic, with one likening getting onto the list to winning the lottery. Property values in the city’s existing marijuana district have skyrocketed and the same likely would happen for the other properties, some said.
There was some confusion about the owner of one of the Apple Avenue properties that will be voted on later this month. Johnson said his research showed an “elderly” resident owned the property and owed thousands of dollars in property taxes.
But German insisted that a younger Black man recently purchased that property.
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