SALINE, MI — Ever since giving the OK to recreational marijuana, the city of Saline has experienced a rush of interest from retailers.
In fact, the city offices were “inundated” with applications, according to Council Member Jim Dell’Orco.
Officials also decided to temporarily suspend accepting new applications while they ironed some wrinkles in their process. Finally, they voted for an increase of 250 feet between dispensaries to 1,000 feet.
“I think that was maybe the one deficiency that existed in the initial ordinance,”Brian Marl, Saline Mayor, said. “Our fear is that we were going to be oversaturated with marijuana dispensaries in the city of Saline.”
There are currently six proposed 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 opens doors to recreational marijuana businesses within city limits
The road to the weed rush
In June 2021, Saline was the first to vote for medical marijuana. The city council then voted to allow recreational marijuana in the city in March 2022.
Saline decided not to set a limit on marijuana permits but to restrict businesses to certain zoning districts outside of downtown. Also, buffers were used to limit the number retailers. This made it even more appealing to potential business owners.
Shaun Mansour (an attorney and owner of Rush Cannabis, one of the dispensaries making a comeback for Saline) said one thing that made the city unique. “attractive”This was because there was no cap.
“I commend Saline for creating an ordinance … that essentially restricts the number of locations by zoning them out,”Mansour said. “There’s a number of municipalities that do a ranking system or a point system and that almost always causes lawsuits because it’s arbitrary.”
Dell’Orco said there were a few different reasons behind allowing recreational retailers within the city besides giving voters what they want and generating tax revenue.
One of the important reasons for Dell’Orco involved maintaining control over how marijuana is regulated within the city instead of allowing others a chance to control it.
“Essentially, the folks that want to set up these businesses with their lobby and their people would be in the driver’s seat,”He said. “If they got their own proposals on the ballot and the voters approved it — the city would lose a great deal of control over the zoning and the licensing and regulation of these businesses if we were not to opt in to get in front of it.”
Not only that, but Dell’Orco said the city also anticipated retailers would redevelop vacant properties or older buildings that could use renovations — however, some applicants have shown that is not necessarily the case.
“To some extent that’s happened, but what we’re finding in the application process is they either want to buy entirely vacant land and build from the ground up, or they want to buy out existing businesses,” Dell’Orco said.
Mickey’s Dairy Twist
One major location that highlighted this was Mickey’s Dairy Twist. There was a community backlash when residents learned the beloved local ice cream shop was poised to become the city’s first dispensary.
Following final site plan approval, Rush Cannabis is expected fill the former Saline ice-cream shop.
Mansour said he has 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 can use a transformation.
The dispensary also has a location in Hazel Park, which opened in April. Mansour said Rush Cannabis hopes to open its Saline dispensary by Thanksgiving.
READ MORE: No more ice cream at Mickey’s Dairy Twist, but marijuana shop planned for Saline staple
Future of marijuana cultivation in Saline
Saline City Council Member Kevin Camero-Sulak isn’t surprised by the number of applications the city is receiving.
“We have seemingly an abundance of applications … but it doesn’t mean that all of them are going to be approved or that there are locations that they can lease or build,”He said.
Despite the number of applications, Marl isn’t worried that the city will be overrun with marijuana or that all the dispensaries will last. He predicts that there will be two to three, possibly four, dispensaries within the city.
“I do think in this particular situation, the market will eventually correct itself if, and if being the key word, we become oversaturated with dispensaries in Saline,”He said.
Marl realizes that recreational marijuana retailers could work as marijuana grows in Saline. He also looks at Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. He encourages the city’s residents to reach out with questions and concerns.
“Just look around in Washtenaw County,”He said. “We have innumerable examples of good, attractive, stable communities who have committed these types of industries and it hasn’t … detracted from the quality of life of their particular communities.”
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