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Traverse City Outlines Restrictions, Timeline for Recreational Marijuana

Traverse City County Building
Marijuana Buds
Marijuana Dank

Traverse City Commissioners have approved a plan to allow recreational marijuana sales within the city limits. Commissioners approved the guidelines in a late-night Monday meeting that went until almost midnight.

City Clerk Benjamin Marentette says, “It’s been a long time coming. The city commission, some time ago, almost two years ago had a licensing framework to allow for adult use cannabis facilities in the city.” It’s been an ongoing debate for a couple of years, with city commission meetings, and ad-hoc committee to study the issue, and even a lawsuit. But late Monday night Traverse City Commissioners approved a plan to move forward. Marentette says under the guidelines, “There would be no more than 24 adult use cannabis retail centers in the city.”

They will be spread out into different districts throughout the city. “And that’s in the different sub-zoning areas or what we call overlay districts, which are micro-zoning pockets around the city that prescribe the maximum number of facilities in different portions of the city to sort of spread out the retail centers,” Marentette says.

There will be what he calls a “competitive” and “extensive” application process.  “Once those applications are presented to my team then they’ll be scored by a scoring committee, which consists of the police chief, the planning director, and city clerk.”

He says the application process could begin next month. “I think we’re going to be in a position to start accepting applications starting in mid-June. But just accepting them doesn’t mean we’re ready to issue licenses. That’s when we are going to start allowing applicants to submit the application.

“Ultimately because there are so many extensive steps involved, and depending on how many applications we get will of course inform how soon will be able to issue licenses,” Marentette says. it’s a process that could take until August of next year.  “I’m anticipating somewhere around August 2023 will get through that process. It’s an extensive one that needs to be methodical and carefully done. And so it may sound like a long time but there’s a lot of steps to get to the point where we are issuing licenses.”

Marentette adds, “We’ve shared with the city commission that we may need some additional staffing capacity to turn these licenses around sooner. We’re going to see how many we get and what that looks like. There’s a number of other things in the queue for the city. While cannabis is important it’s not the only thing they were dealing with and so it’s part of the mix,” he says. “It is possible that the city won’t get more applications than licenses we have available. That’ll speed things up.”

For the dozen medical dispensaries already established in the city, the reaction is positive. Lighthouse General Manager Jon Handzlik says, “I think that the commission did a good job at spreading the amount of licenses around. And limiting the max cap higher than the medical shops that are already open. So a lot of the medical shops will have a very good shot at getting a recreational license. And also there will be room for other players to come to the game as well.”

Up until now, the ‘other players’ have been other communities that already allow recreational sales.  Sabrina Eisner is the Assistant Manager at House of Dank. “We’re getting all the deliveries from Kalkaska and honor and Benzie. Although surrounding places are getting the money the Traverse City should’ve been getting all this time. So it’s very exciting.”

Both sides acknowledge it’s been a long couple of years to get to this point. Handzlik says, “Nothing good is easy. Everything takes a little bit of work and I think that’s true with cannabis use as well. This is something that’s been argued and litigated over.”

Marentette says, “I don’t think anyone is exactly happy with it. In terms of public policy sometimes that means maybe we landed in the right spot. Because not everyone got everything and not everyone got nothing.”

Handzlik says times are changing, and so is the perception of marijuana. “I know there is a little bit of confusion about what we do here. I have to say this isn’t just ‘smoking a doobie on the corner.’ This is science, this is the future. This is what we’re going to be looking at for the future. This is going to happen, there’s no way around it. This is going to happen and we’re going to help people.”