GRAND RAPIDS — The Grand Rapids City Commission will vote next month on a plan that could allow retail recreational cannabis sales months ahead of schedule.
The commission advanced a resolution on Tuesday to allow existing medical cannabis businesses to apply for a recreational license. The proposal was initially limited to growers, processors, safety compliance facilities and secure transporters, as MiBiz previously reported.
First Ward Commissioner Jon O’Connor, who has consistently advocated for the retail sale of recreational cannabis in the city, initiated an amendment to include provisioning centers during the June 16 committee of the whole meeting.
“There is certainly a demand,” O’Connor said during the Tuesday meeting. “I know there are (retail) operators outside of Grand Rapids that have the ability to deliver here. Those are tax dollars that are not being spent in our community.”
O’Connor said earlier this month the purpose behind fast-tracking businesses from medical to recreational is to jumpstart additional tax revenue during the pandemic. The city is able to collect excise tax dollars only from recreational cannabis businesses, not medical.
An approval at the commission’s July 7 meeting would mean currently licensed medical dispensaries could apply for a recreational license months before previously planned. The city is scheduled to start accepting applications for recreational licenses in October.
“That would be awesome if they included medical retailers,” said Chris Silva, retail manager at Pharmhouse Wellness at 831 Wealthy St. SW.
However, Silva — who is also a board member of the West Michigan Cannabis Guild — expressed concerns that much larger companies already licensed in Grand Rapids for medical cannabis could overtake the market.
Pharmhouse is among four medical marijuana provisioning centers that appear to be operating in the city.
If passed on July 7, the resolution would take immediate effect. O’Connor said he is hopeful it will pass based on support for the amendment during this week’s meeting.
Third Ward Commissioner Senita Lenear voted against adding retail to the resolution, saying the proposal goes against what was communicated to the public about the process and how it relates to allowing for the retail side of recreational cannabis.
“We communicated publicly that (the community) would have an opportunity to weigh in if we were changing existing medical retail to recreational,” Linear said.
If the resolution passes, it would likely allow for the sale of recreational cannabis several months sooner than expected. During a March 17 committee meeting, commissioners voted 5-2 to delay recreational applications for six months until Oct. 20, 2020.
The city is still working out other details related to zoning requirements and promoting equity in the commercial cannabis space.
MiBiz Managing Editor Andy Balaskovitz contributed reporting to this story.