RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA IS coming to the city of Marquette. That much is clear.
What’s unclear is exactly when? And how many shops will there be? Will pot shops be cropping up everywhere?
“Based on conversations we’ve had at meetings and here at the City Manager’s office, I would expect that we’d have maybe five retail shops open up in the first year,” says Sean Hobbins, a management analyst operating out of the City Manager’s office. He’s been acting as a point man for the city on the marijuana issue.
He’s speaking strictly of marijuana retailers–businesses selling marijuana products directly to customers walking in off of the street.
But Marquette’s new ordinance will also open the door for other marijuana businesses–growers large and small, consumption establishments (where the product must be consumed on the premises), micro-businesses (just a single small grower, processor, and seller), transporters of marijuana, and others.
There’ll be no limits on the numbers of marijuana businesses allowed in the city. “We voted to let the market decide that,” says Mayor Pro Tem Jenn Hill. “We decided it wasn’t the role of the government to decide how many businesses would be allowed.”
So far, according to Hobbins, most of the inquiries they’ve fielded at the City Manager’s office have been from prospective retailers.
We’ve been hearing that the deadline is March 1st. So that’s when we’ll be able to buy recreational pot legally, right?
Wrong. More likely, it’ll be a couple of months after that.
Here’s the process for those wanting to open a marijuana business in town, according to Hobbins:
- Get prequalified by the state, which will conduct a background check on you. You can do that now.
- Apply for a special land use permit from the city. In other words, indicate exactly where you intend to set up shop. You can do that starting March 1st. The Planning Commission will consider your application, but it won’t be until their April 7th meeting that they’ll actually approve or disapprove your permit.
- With approval, go the to City Clerk’s office and apply for a provisional license to sell recreational marijuana. That could take up to 60 days, but would likely be much less, maybe 10 days.
- With the provisional license in hand, go back to the state, and apply for a state license. How long that might take is uncertain.
Once the state license is granted, you can open your doors.
One of several maps produced by the Planning Commission. The yellow circles represent schools, churches are orange, and green are substance abuse agencies.
Where will all these businesses be located? The Planning Commission has presented its zoning plan for them, and it still has to be approved by the City Commission, but it’s complicated.
Basically, it won’t allow any of the businesses in residential neighborhoods, nor within 500 feet of schools, churches, or substance abuse centers.
The central downtown district–from Front to Seventh Street along Washington and neighboring streets–will likely be the home of some of the retailers. Interestingly, Third Street will allow only a few specific locations for a pot business under the proposed zoning ordinance, because of its proximity to a school and churches.
The growing operations? They could crop up in several locations–downtown, north Marquette, south Marquette and west Marquette. Inside or outside. If they’re outside, they’d have to be fenced in and not visible from street level.
Like we said, the rules are complicated and not yet etched in stone.
“I think there might be some frustration at the front end of this process but we’ll get through it,” says Dave Stensaas, Marquette’s planner and zoning administrator.
“I think we’re handling it well,” Hobbins adds. “We’ve laid things out clearly, we’ve been very public about the process. We’re as ready as we can be but, of course, it’s all going to be very new for all of us.”
Bottom line? Marquette won’t be overrun by marijuana establishments this year, but we’ll likely see a handful of them opening for business in the next several months.