Nearly half of Michigan’s communities have banned recreational pot businesses — and they may regret it 

click to enlarge LIV Ferndale is a new marijuana provisioning center that opens its doors next week. Ferndale permits marijuana businesses, unlike more than 770 other Michigan municipalities that have banned it.

Jack Roskopp

LIV Ferndale is a new marijuana provisioning center that opens its doors next week. Ferndale permits marijuana businesses, unlike more than 770 other Michigan municipalities that have banned it.

Recreational marijuana dispensaries will begin opening in the next few months, but nearly half of the state's communities have already banned the businesses from opening.

Since voters approved the legalization of recreational marijuana in November 2018, at least 771 villages, townships, and cities have passed ordinances barring growers and dispensaries from opening up, according to the Marijuana Regulatory Agency.

More communities are expected to follow suit before Nov. 1, when the Marijuana Regulatory Agency will begin taking applications from prospective growers and dispensaries.

Marijuana advocates say many of those communities are going to regret opting out. Recreational pot is expected to become a multibillion-dollar industry in Michigan that will create new jobs and provide a significant amount of new revenue for roads, schools, and municipalities. In the first full fiscal year, marijuana sales are projected to generate $180.5 million in taxes, according to the Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency. That number is expected to grow to $287.9 million by 2022-23.

"You are about to see the reinventions of communities," former state Rep. Mike Callton, a Nashville, Michigan, Republican who now works for MiCannabis Consulting, tells Metro Times. "When the hand of the economy comes down on an area, and you start injecting money and jobs, then you will see changes in the whole community."

Dispensaries are expected to begin opening in December, and growers will begin planting their first seeds before the year's end. Jobs will also be springing up in marijuana delivery services, transporters, and testing labs.

Michigan-based Pure Green, a company that creates cannabis products such as THC and CBD tablets, employs about 75 people, including high-paid chemists, engineers, and consultants, says founder and CEO Steve Goldner.

"All of them are taking home really good salaries," Goldner tells Metro Times. "They are working in safe environments; they don't have to worry about a squad car behind them; they are able to get bank loans for cars and homes."

Marijuana advocates say it's unfair for communities where a majority of residents approved legalization to ban the businesses that would allow people to buy marijuana. Under the recreational marijuana law approved by 55.9 percent of voters in November, residents can override municipalities' bans by gathering petitions to put the issue on the ballot.

The first community to challenge a ban was Royal Oak Township on May 7. But only 377 voters turned out, and the referendum was defeated.

In August, referendums to overturn bans failed in Highland Park and the Village of Vanderbilt.

Some of the communities that banned cannabis businesses said they may reconsider after seeing legalization in action.

In Dearborn, where a majority of residents supported recreational marijuana, the city council decided in December to opt out for 18 months and then revisit the issue.

"The city council wanted to see what the state regulations are going to be and how they are going to be implemented," Debra Walling, corporation counsel for the city, tells Metro Times. "We want to wait and see."

Cannabis consultant Mort Meisner predicts communities that banned the businesses "will join in and reap the benefits of foot traffic and [add] to their tax base."

"It is surprising to me that nearly half of the cities in our state have opted out," says Meisner, who handles public relations, crisis management, marketing, and advertising for the cannabis industry. "Many of those who have chosen to sit on the sidelines and watch will change their minds soon."

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