Traverse City Hears from Marijuana Dispensary Employees

"Let’s face it. We stumbled out of the gate. But it doesn’t mean we’re not going to move forward on this." - Brian McGillivary

Michigan voters passed recreational marijuana in 2018 –but so far there are still no recreational sales in Traverse City. Marijuana Pipes

Traverse City Commissioners appointed an Ad Hoc Committee to take steps towards setting the rules for allowing recreational marijuana sales. But it’s not happening fast enough for many in the industry.

Thursday morning the Ad Hoc group held a public meeting – the first in-person since the pandemic – to discuss the issues. “Tyler” spoke first at the meeting. He doesn’t work at a dispensary but works at a nearby grow shop. “We voted for it and it’s what we want. I don’t know what it’s taking so long.”

It was a full house in the Governmental Center – mostly made up of employees of Traverse City’s medical marijuana facilities. There are 12 in the city limits, but they’re all limited to medical marijuana sales. About 20 people spoke, and they all want the city to allow recreational sales. And as some pointed out, it’s been three years since Michigan voters approved it. A majority of Traverse City voters also supported it.

Jodi Rademaker with Highly Cannaco says, “All of us deserve the chance in an open market to succeed and we’re ready for it.” Many employees say the established businesses should be allowed to add recreational pot. “They should just give us 12 our licenses and get us up and running. Not only have we made the investment, they have hired locals,” Rademaker told 9&10 News.

The waiting and ongoing delays just adds to the anxiety. “Every time they have a meeting I get nervous. Am I going to lose my job, am I going to lose my insurance? Just give us recreational so I can have job security, so my co-workers in the industry can have job security,” she says.

03 09 20 Tc Marijuana Meeting Pkg 1a0Owners say it’s a missed opportunity.  Mike DiLaura with House of Dank says, “We’ve already missed this entire busy tourist season. And it seems pretty obvious that this set of commissioners are just going to kick the can down the road to the next set of commissioners.”  Another speaker told the committee, “You’re not keeping marijuana out of the city. People are still using it. You’re just making them spend their money somewhere else.”

The missed opportunity also in the daily business that shops are turning away – sending to neighboring towns that do allow recreational sales. Rademaker says, “We have definitely sent almost 60 people a day to Kalkaska.” Hers wasn’t the only testimonial. One store employee says they estimate they’ve lost $20,000 in sales the last week alone by having to send customers to other towns. It doesn’t make sense for Rademaker. “Do we really want to keep sending tourists out of our town, and locals out of our town? It’s really hard to see our dollars go elsewhere.”

Brian McGillivary is a Traverse City Commissioner and serves on the Ad Hoc Committee. He says, “The City Commission’s goal has always been to allow recreational marijuana sales in the city. Let’s face it. We stumbled out of the gate. But it doesn’t mean we’re not going to move forward on this.” Marijuana No Recreational Sales

Industry supporters say the longer the city waits to approve recreational marijuana the more business goes elsewhere, and the more the city loses out on potential revenue. DiLaura says, “If this commission is able to get the 12 stores that are here and allow them to sell recreationally by Sept. 30, then the city and county are each going to get $350,000 from the state of Michigan… We still have the Sept. 30 deadline and that is the fiscal year for the state of Michigan’s marijuana regulatory agency. That’s when they write the checks.”

Another speaker, referring to the tax revenue from the MRA, added, “That money should be for our roads, that money should be for our schools.” While that argument may be enticing and convincing for some, it’s not enough for McGillivary. “I don’t think the city is going to move based on the possibility of getting tax funds… we have more of a long-term approach.” He adds, “Today was mostly about laying out the stuff we need from staff, and giving them a timeline… and what we want to hear going forward.

“We’re not going to operate based on when we could generate additional revenue from it, from the taxes. I mean it would be nice… but it’s so unpredictable,” McGillivary says. “Our goal is actually to have it to the city commission by the beginning of October.”

“Tyler” isn’t satisfied and sees only delays and excuses. “This is taking way too long. I’m done with it. If this isn’t done by next year all I’m doing is recall votes.”  DiLaura is convinced nothing will happen until after the November elections.