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Michigan Marijuana: Cashing in on a newly legalized crop

(WWMT)

Recreational marijuana was legalized in Michigan, but it could be months, even years before growing operations and retail stores open. In the meantime, community members and even larger corporations are planting their roots in medicinal marijuana.

Steven Roberts is one of them. He said he started the process of opening Aim High Meds LLC in October 2017. The process hasn’t been easy. While weed is legal, cities and towns can still deny businesses like his from locating in their communities.

Tekonsha Township said no. Tekonsha Village said yes. Village President Thomas Bowling said the decision was based on the community’s wants.

"We worked with zoning to be able to come up with a zoning ordinance, the 425 that allowed for that kind of business to be in the location it is, but yet keep the residential and the schools somewhat removed,” Roberts said of his work with the village.

After resolving the zoning issue in December 2017, Roberts applied for a medicinal license in January 2018.

“We were on the docket on July 12. It took that long to do the background check and process through the state,” he said.

With five yes votes, remodeling began in July 2018. Roberts purchased an old bar. An architect laid out the flow of the building for its specific purpose.

“We started taking down the building and starting over again. Separate counters are designed to be HIPPA compliant so you can talk to individuals one at a time,” Roberts said.

Yet Roberts faced another roadblock. The law also requires security for both dispensaries and growing operations.

“The way you walked in, you were behind glass. It's bullet proof glass. The idea is you pass the driver's license over to our secretary or receptionist, then she buzzes you in that second door,” Roberts said.

Others like Marty Webber with Heartwood Pharms are not even that far along in the process. Webber and his partners spent more than a year looking for a location for their future medicinal marijuana grow.

"Our plan is to have it under surveillance at all times," Webber said. "We would have the fencing, the cameras exterior and interior. We will have security guard on the premises. It's been about a year and a half process so far just looking for properties, looking for people who would allow us in their facility if we were going to choose to lease."

Webber said he and his partners approached various industrial parks about renting but were turned down. Finally, they purchased a property, only to dig up another road block but are hopeful to finally have land for Heartwood Pharms in February 2019.

"We've run into some issues with things with that property so we're looking at other avenues. It's very limited in Kalamazoo as far as what's available, where you can grow,” he said.

Attorney Devin Loker said that, for now, medicinal marijuana dispensaries and grow operations is all we’ll see. He said once medicinal grow operations can legally expand, they can add recreational plants.

“Municipalities that are going to choose to go forward have already implemented some kind of facilities licensing area and they've given a green zone. So they kind of know where they want these type of establishments," Loker said. "Maybe 80,000 square foot of warehouse space, but they only plan on using 20 of it. So maybe they'll be able to do recreational with the rest of it."

Loker said it’s likely it will be another year until Michigan sees recreational marijuana retail stores. He hopes communities will welcome the businesses and in return he said prices for properties will go up and more revenue will flow.

“We'd like to see, it really depends on the municipality," Loker said. "Some of them may use this as a great redevelopment work to do a corridor. Maybe they'll do a half a dozen shops, but only on this corridor."


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