MANISTEE — The steps that Manistee’s marijuana businesses must follow with provisional permits and licenses is a unique process that requires requesting permission from the city of Manistee for the special use, then licences from the state are requested and then either approved or denied, and then businesses reapproach the city for further approval.
One medical marijuana-only business publicly lamented that the city only allows five permits for adult use businesses when the current permit holders are not yet open and would be allowed an extension.
Joshua Covert spoke during the first public comment period of the Manistee City Council meeting on Wednesday as an attorney representing Meds Cafe.
“Meds Cafe is going forward with a medical provisioning center license currently in Manistee and they expect to be up and running in September,” Covert said. “They also have tried to obtain one of the adult-use licenses through the city of Manistee.”
He said they were unsuccessful in getting permission to be adult-use.
At the council meeting, council approved an amendment to an ordinance, allowing permit holders to have an extension through April 1. Those permits were only valid for one year and were set to expire on Oct. 24, but at least one business reported it had encountered significant delays in opening a marijuana establishment due to the pandemic.
Covert said Meds Cafe was concerned by council’s extension for the other businesses “because we’ve been pushing through COVID and are ready to open up a medical provisioning center which very easily could also be an adult-use retail establishment.”
“But by extending the deadline to April, it’s going to make it where we’re not going to be able to move up through the number of allocated spots if somebody isn’t ready to go,” he said. “Every day that goes by, that’s another day that the city doesn’t get the taxes that are generated by having an adult-use retail establishment.”
Covert urged council to consider allocating more adult-use licenses or another alternative measure where Meds Cafe would be allowed to be both medical and adult use.
“By doing so, we’re going to start generating taxes for the city of Manistee right away within a couple weeks of us being open if you were to approve them as a retail establishment,” Covert said. “…As opposed to waiting until April to see if some of these other places are actually going to get licensed through the state or be ready to go.”
RELATED PREVIOUS COVERAGE: City accepting marijuana license applications
He said the business already holds medical and adult-use licenses from the state.
Meds Cafe also lists two existing locations on its website: one in Lowell and one in Rogers City.
Ryan Fitzsimmons, co-owner of Meds Cafe, said the business is planned for 70 Arthur St. (formerly North Shore Marine & RV).
“We are ready and funded to bring these jobs and these tax dollars to the city and I wish everyone would want to be open minded and want to work with me in the same way that I want to benefit the city of Manistee,” Fitzsimmons said.
He said he planned to work together with Covert to send a letter to the city on the topic.
He emphasized that it “is very, very hard to survive just medically in these markets and I’ve invested a significant sum of money now into Manistee.”
Fitzsimmons said he also recently signed to purchase a roughly 4-acre property at 170 Glocheski Drive to be used as a grow facility of nearly 60,000 square feet in grow space.
He said he will be sharing his site plan for the Victorian Reserves-operating company’s grow facility with the city’s planning and zoning department later this month.
“We’re funded to put a 10,000 square-foot building with 30-foot ceilings, state of the art grow facility to start and then look to expand on that almost 4-acre parcel to have up to 60,000 feet of grow space,” Fitzsimmons said. “You’re talking tens of millions of dollars we would invest into that.”
Fitzsimmons said he would like to have further discussions with city leaders about how he could also be allowed to have adult-use retail options.
WHERE DOES THE MONEY GO?
Ed Bradford, Manistee City chief financial officer, said in an email that the city receives annual license fees of $5,000 for each of the license holders.
Bradford said the annual marijuana license fees are used to defray costs the city incurs along the way to the marijuana businesses’ prior to opening and after they would open and be running.
While several references at council had previously been made focusing on the city police department’s role of enforcement and training about marijuana that factors into the license costs — there are many departments listed by the city as being part of the process such as city fire, zoning, city clerk and others.
According to the Feb. 20, 2018 city council agenda packet, council adopted an ordinance on Jan. 2, 2018.
Part of that ordinance allows certain medical marijuana facilities in the city and the city anticipated that it would incur labor costs with that move for staff to evaluate applications for medical marijuana facility permits and the ongoing oversight of the granted permits
“In analyzing the cost associated with the city services, city staff has recommended that council establish the fee for an application for permit and application for a renewal of a permit already granted as $5,000. The application fee shall also be considered the annual fee for permits granted,” reads part of the agenda packet.
That defrayment addresses the time it takes to process certain tasks along the way as well as training and materials invested in the city’s end for making the marijuana applications, permits and other measures happen.
For example, the fire department and police departments required additional training and hazardous materials equipment and would also be required to do inspections and assessments of the businesses and facilities.
The city clerk and planning and zoning departments in particular have large roles with the applications, compliance and required documentation that need to be addressed and costs offset, even though those steps may be less obvious than something like law enforcement.
Bradford said 15% of the taxes will go back to city communities that allow marijuana retailers.
He said the state charges various taxes on marijuana sales, primarily a 6% sales tax and a 10% excise tax.
However, Bradford said “the city doesn’t know the impact or magnitude of these fees, as they are calculated and remitted by the state and we don’t have any open businesses yet.”
See the full city council meeting here: