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Municipalities “Opt In” Under Medical Marijuana Licensing Act

By Ben Wrigley

The numbers of municipalities electing to opt-in under the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act (MMFLA) are growing in Michigan.

According to a fact sheet from the Michigan Municipal League, on September 21, 2016, Governor Rick Snyder signed a package of bills (2016 PA 281-283) that significantly expands the types of medical marihuana facilities permitted under state law, and establishes a licensing scheme similar to the scheme for liquor licenses.

Notably, these bills do not require a state license to operate as a primary caregiver under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, nor do they allow municipalities to prohibit operation as a primary caregiver. The existing regulatory scheme regarding primary caregivers remains in effect.

Many municipalities are now looking at the opportunities available for community growth, reuse of abandoned properties, and real property tax revenue increases. Municipalities see the benefits of allowing one or more state-licensed facilities outweigh the detriments.

To our knowledge, the first Michigan municipality to jump in with a full-fledged ordinance is Pinconning Township. The township has authorized up to 25 grow licenses (Class A only), 25 processor licenses, 10 provisioning center licenses, four secured transport licenses and two safety compliance lab licenses.

It is not likely the community will have that many licenses on the first day, when the doors open for business in the township. But they will have many of them, because establishing those larger maximum numbers allows for growth over a period of time as properties become available for use under the zoning ordinance.

Just think: If all municipal operating permits were issued at $5,000 each in the township, that’s $330,000 annually into the township coffers from just the annual operating permit fees, which represents a tidy sum for township development.

If we assume the figures that have been developed in connection with the current level of medical marijuana usage in Michigan, 25 grow permits of 500 plants each could represent 10-20 percent of the medical marijuana needed in the state to provide for qualified patients and registered primary caregivers.

Following the township’s lead, the city of Webberville, the city of Clare, the city of Kalkaska and, of course, the Village of Kingsley (thanks to Theracann’s multimillion dollar proposed development) have stepped into the arena. They have either adopted MMFLA ordinances, or they are working on them. Interestingly, the city of Webberville’s opt-in ordinance does not allow any provisioning centers. Everything else is fair game there.

Not too long ago, the firm received reports from the southwest corner of the state that the cities of Niles and Buchanan both adopted resolutions instructing planning commissions to move forward with development of MMFLA ordinances. Near the lakeshore, Crockery Township in Ottawa County passed an ordinance for one grow facility and one provisioning center. Other communities will be jumping on board soon.

The next wave of positive movement is likely to come from the communities surrounding the Village of Kingsley. We are aware that Acme Township wants in on the goodies as well. It wouldn’t be surprising if most of the other ones in that area do as well because township officials are hearing from their citizens about what could be a significant loss to the township from a revenue opportunity if they don’t jump on board and opt in.

Allowing grow facilities in the surrounding townships would provide more product for the Kingsley processing plant. Presumably the expansion in that area will mean secured transporters, a lab or two, and retail centers opening up as well.

Here’s one way to describe what is happening now: “When it rains it pours.” More communities throughout the north, northeast, east and southwest parts of the state will be jumping on board and “opting in.” Middle and middle-west seem to be very reluctant to join this economic expansion. Maybe Grand Rapids is growing so fast with booze, downtown condos, motels, hotels and event facilities that the bud is left behind.

Kent County Prosecuting Attorney Chris Becker has vowed to – and does regularly – attend meetings in every municipality to point out what he espouses to be the evils of cannabis.

On the other hand, the Grand Rapids Press consistently reports traffic fatalities, serious accidents and murders “involving alcohol.” Since this is the craft beer capital of Michigan, they wouldn’t shut down alcohol. It’s the golden goose. Can you imagine if the community leaders and law enforcement officers were stomping their feet and pointing fingers at municipal authorities and supporting legislation to eliminate alcohol in the county and in the state of Michigan?

As a friend says, “ain’t gonna happen.”

It’s time to keep showing the municipal leaders the benefits of legal cannabis businesses for their communities.

Ben WrigleyBen Wrigley

Ben Wrigley

Ben has practiced law in Michigan since 1970. His specialties include real estate, construction law, business/corporate, wealth advisory, family law and litigation. He founded Wrigley & Hoffman in 1994 after many years with Varnum, Riddering, Schmidt & Howlett.  Ben is particularly interested in the real estate, business law and tax aspects of marijuana legalization. He is a member of the Marijuana Law Section of the Michigan Bar Association and co-chairs the Zoning and Property Committee of that Section.

Wrigley, Hoffman & Hendricks, P.C. (www.wrigleyhoffman.com), a Grand Rapids law firm established in 1994, practices cannabis business law under the name CannalexLaw (www.cannalexlaw.com). The firm’s three members have over 100 combined years of business and real property law experience. We have joined these years of business law experience with deep knowledge of the marijuana legalization phenomenon, providing advice and counsel on the intersection of legalized marijuana and business practices. Benham R. Wrigley, Jr. and Robert A. Hendricks lead the firm’s CannalexLaw practice, calling on Thomas A. Hoffman’s litigation expertise as needed.

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