Royal Oak approves its first three recreational marijuana businesses

Dozens of residents turned out to oppose the businesses

click to enlarge The Royal Oak Commission approved plans for three recreational marijuana businesses -
The Royal Oak Commission approved plans for three recreational marijuana businesses

Royal Oak moved closer to getting its first three recreational marijuana businesses following a marathon city commission meeting that stretched into Tuesday morning.

The Royal Oak City Commission overwhelmingly approved special permits for Gatsby Cannabis on Meijer Drive, Royal Treatment on East Harrison Avenue, and Best Lyfe on Woodward Avenue.

The five-and-half-hour meeting included two hours of public comments from residents who opposed the businesses.

But commissioners weren’t swayed by the naysayers.

Commissioner Patricia Paruch said the time has come for residents to accept that recreational marijuana is legal in Michigan. She pointed out that residents are allowed to grow and use marijuana in their own homes and that at least businesses are located away from residential areas.

“It’s going to be in your neighborhood,” Paruch said of marijuana. “People are going to be growing it in their basement. People are going to be smoking it out on their decks in the summertime because they are allowed to use it for personal use. I think as a community we need to learn that and educate people that this is here now, it's going to be very close to you. It could be next door to you.”

Royal Oak’s neighbors — Madison Heights, Ferndale, and Hazel Park — have already embraced recreational marijuana businesses.

Gatsby Cannabis had the most ambitious of the three projects, with plans to open a nearly 13,000-square-foot marijuana processing, growing, and retail facility in a vacant auto services building.

The council voted 5-1 to approve the proposal.

Commissioner Melanie Macey cast the lone no vote, saying she was opposed to the business opening within 88 feet of Oakland Schools Technical Campus. Michigan bars cannabis businesses from opening within 1,000 feet of a school, unless approved by a local government.

Mayor Michael Fournier said his children may attend the school, and he’s not worried about the dispensary, noting that his kids see liquor stores on their way to school.

“Maybe in my household we look at things differently,” Fournier said. “Call us progressive, call us what you want. In our household, we’re not trying to shield our kids. We’re trying to arm our kids with information.”

Former Royal Oak Mayor Dennis Cowan, who represents Gatsby Cannabis, said the company plans to donate $225,000 to charitable organizations in the city every year for the next decade.

“We take our community involvement extremely seriously, and Gatsby is putting their money where their mouth is,” Cowan told the commission. “They very much look forward to contributions to the community.”

Royal Treatment plans to open a 3,000-square-foot, environmentally-friendly dispensary in a vacant building on the 400 block of E. Harrison Avenue. It includes solar panels, wind turbines, and a green roof.

Former City Commissioner James Rasor, who represents Royal Treatment, said the company plans to donate $50,000 a year to charitable organizations in Royal Oak.

The commission unanimously approved the project.

Best Lyfe plans to open a micro marijuana business on Woodard Avenue in an abandoned mattress store and restaurant just south of 14 Mile Road. The business will grow up to 150 plants.

Some residents opposed the business because it’s adjacent to condos.

The commission approved the project with a 6-1 vote.

In nearby Detroit, the city began accepting applications for recreational marijuana businesses.

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Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling is an award-winning investigative journalist who operated Motor City Muckraker, an online news site devoted to exposing abuses of power and holding public officials accountable. Neavling also hosted Muckraker Report on 910AM from September 2017 to July 2018. Before launching Motor City Muckraker,...
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