SALINE, MI — Ever since recreational marijuana was given the OK, the city of Saline has seen a flurry of interest from retailers.
In fact, city offices have been “inundated” with applications, according to Councilman Jim Del Orco.
Officials even decided to temporarily suspend accepting new applications while they ironed out some of the kinks in the process, eventually voting to increase the original 250-foot buffer between dispensaries to 1,000 feet.
“I think that was maybe the only flaw in the original decision,” said Saline Mayor Brian Marl. “Our fear is that we will be oversaturated with marijuana dispensaries in the city of Saline.”
There are currently six recommended marijuana locations: the former Mickey’s Dairy Twist at 751 West Michigan Ave., Come Dancing at 465 E. Michigan Ave., Zax Auto Wash at 660 E. Michigan Ave., Octapharma Plasma at 813 W. Michigan Ave., 7608 E. Michigan Ave. near Tractor Supply Co. and Lot20A, which is the business park parcel next to Zippy Auto Wash.
“I knew there would be a lot of interest because the players in this business are a cash operation … They have a lot of money to play with,” Dell’Orco said.
READ MORE: Saline is opening the door to a recreational marijuana business within city limits
The road to weed rush
Saline voted for the first time in June 2021 to allow medical marijuana. Then in March 2022, the city council voted to allow recreational marijuana businesses in the city.
Saline decided not to set a cap on marijuana permits, but instead to limit businesses to special zoning districts in commercial areas outside of downtown and use buffers to limit the number of retailers. This made it even more attractive for future business.
Sean Mansour, an attorney and owner of Rush Cannabis, one of the dispensaries making a pitch for Saline, said one thing that made the city “attractive” was the lack of a cap.
“I commend Saleen for creating an ordinance that essentially limits the number of sites by zoning them,” Mansour said. “There are a number of municipalities that do a rating system or a point system, and that almost always leads to lawsuits because it’s arbitrary.”
Dell’Orco said there are several different reasons to allow recreational retailers within the city, other than giving voters what they want and generating tax revenue.
One of Dell’Orco’s important reasons included maintaining control over marijuana regulation in the city, rather than letting others control it.
“Essentially, the people who want to build this business with their lobby and their people will be in the driver’s seat,” he said. “If they got their own proposition on the ballot and the voters approved it, the city would lose a lot of control over zoning and licensing and regulation of these businesses if we didn’t vote against it. “.
Not only that, but Dell’Orco said the city also expects retailers to redevelop vacant properties or older buildings that could use renovations, however, some applicants have indicated that’s not required.
“To some extent that has happened, but what we’re finding in the bidding process is that they either want to buy completely vacant land and build from the ground up, or they want to buy existing businesses,” Dell’Orco said. the
Mickey’s Dairy Twist
One major place that highlighted this was Mickey’s Dairy Twist. There was a community reaction when residents learned that a beloved local ice cream shop was set to become the city’s first dispensary.
Rush Cannabis is expected to fill the former location of the longtime Saline Ice Cream Shop once the final site plan is approved.
Mansour said he’s seen dispensaries redevelop old buildings that other retailers wouldn’t think to touch. He said Mickey’s Dairy Twist is an example of a building that could use a conversion.
The dispensary has another location in Hazel Park that opened in April. Rush Cannabis aims to open its Saline location by Thanksgiving and be the city’s first dispensary, Mansour said.
READ MORE: There’s no more ice cream at Mickey’s Dairy Twist, but a marijuana shop is slated for Saline.
The future of marijuana in Saline
Saline City Councilman Kevin Camero-Sulak is not surprised by the number of applications the city is receiving.
“We seem to have an abundance of applications … but that doesn’t mean they’re all going to be approved or that there are places they can rent or build,” he said.
Despite the number of applications, Marley isn’t worried that the city will be flooded with marijuana or that all the dispensaries will serve. He predicts two to three, possibly four dispensaries will pop up within the city.
“I do think the market will eventually correct itself in this particular situation if and when the key word is, we oversaturate Saline dispensaries,” he said.
As marijuana continues to thrive in Saline, Marl looks to surrounding areas like Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti and realizes that marijuana retailers can work. He urges city residents to reach out with their questions and concerns.
“Just look around in Washtenaw County,” he said. “We have countless examples of good, attractive, sustainable communities that have adopted these types of industries and it hasn’t … diminished the quality of life in their particular communities.”
READ MORE ABOUT THIS TOPIC. An outcry against a dispensary near a daycare prompts a suspension of marijuana permits in Saline
Aiming to avoid a dispensary “on every corner of us,” Saline is changing the rules for marijuana
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