ESCANABA, Mich. (WZMQ) – As more marijuana retailers look to set up shop in the Upper Peninsula, cities are adjusting their policies to create the best environment, both for the businesses and for those around them.
Escanaba’s cannabis industry has grown in 2023. Elevated Exotics opened downtown in April, followed shortly after by Nirvana on North Lincoln Road. The growth began when the City Council approved an ordinance allowing recreational-use retailers in Escanaba last fall.
“We’ve had six to nine applications,” said Tyler Anthony, Planning and Zoning Administrator for the City of Escanaba. “So far, we’re really expecting to only see three, maybe four, establishments operational through the rest of this year.”
At a City Council meeting on Thursday, the Planning and Zoning Commission presented an amendment to the current marijuana ordinance. If adopted, it would prohibit cannabis retailers from opening within 500 feet of a “post-secondary education institution,” like Bay College. Currently, marijuana retailers cannot be within 750 feet of a K-12 school, with the exception of a commercial district.
“The Planning Commission really reviewed that request from the college because of all the dual enrollment students from the high school,” Anthony said. “They had a lot of students visiting campus, which nobody under the age of 21 is allowed in any type of establishment with marijuana, so it made sense in the Planning Commission’s eyes to think about that.”
The Planning and Zoning Commission also asked the City Council to consider changing some of the language in its marijuana ordinance. That would include a section which states a marijuana retailer cannot be within 100 feet of “a one-family dwelling.”
“The problem is, we don’t have a very reasonable way to track which land is being used for one-family dwellings or not,” explained Anthony. “If we change that to just saying “any residential district,” then we have something we can actually work with.”
As marijuana ordinances continue to develop, Anthony says things are going smoothly, despite some people’s initial concerns.
“We’re keeping a tight lid on all of it,” he said. “Any little violation of our zoning code or any other city codes, we’re on top of right away. Just making sure that they all remain good neighbors, and that’s going well.”
The City Council will hold a public hearing on the proposed amendments on Thursday, August 3. Afterward, they will vote to approve or deny the amendments.