Marijuana Main Street? Rochester to Vote on Cannabis Retail Proposals

October 11th, 2023 Legislation & Policy Updates
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On November 7th, Rochester will be abuzz with voters deciding on two pivotal cannabis-related ballot proposals.

These proposals, initiated through a petition by Stockbridge-based advocacy group, the "Open Stores In Rochester Committee," offer a significant departure from the norm. Typically, such ordinances and charter amendments come from the City Council, but this time it's the voice of the people leading the charge.

Back in 2018, the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act legalized recreational marihuana for those over 21. A crucial element of this act allows citizens to initiate ballot measures through petitions.

City Attorney Jeffrey Kragt clarifies that the upcoming ballot isn't a City Council initiative. Once a petition garners sufficient signatures, it gains the momentum to move forward. Current city ordinances, established in 2018, explicitly ban marijuana establishments within Rochester. This new motion, if passed, would essentially pave the way for three retail marijuana stores in Rochester, treating them akin to standard retail outlets.

Rochester's Mayor, Stuart Bikson, expressed that these stores could even find a home right in the heart of downtown. The only restrictions being that these establishments couldn't be in residential zones or within 800 feet of K-12 educational institutions.

But what exactly are the two proposals?

  1. Proposal One: Seeks voter approval for an ordinance allowing three adult-use cannabis retail establishments in Rochester.

  2. Proposal Two: Questions the voters about establishing a cannabis licensing charter, which will lay out an application process, selection criteria, and regulations for these establishments.

Kragt highlighted that the language of these proposals, crafted by the Open Stores in Rochester Committee, will integrate into the City's Charter and Code of Ordinances upon approval. He assures that the committee's role would be limited post-approval, barring their applications for licenses.

Rochester DDA Chairman, Ben Govanelli, shared some numbers. To land these proposals on the ballot, 360 signatures were needed for the ordinance and 560 for the Charter amendment. He also mentioned that the Committee has been proactively securing potential site locations.

With four locations under consideration, including 727 N Main St. and 908 N. Main, there's a buzz about potential effects on downtown Rochester. The DDA, while not taking a firm stance on the cannabis issue, voiced concerns about potential traffic increase and the impact on property values.

However, it's not just about potential challenges. Each of these proposed retail locations could generate approximately $60,000 in tax revenue annually. This equates to nearly 1% of the combined budget of the Rochester city general fund and DDA this year.

Yet, not everyone is on board. The "No Pot On Main Street Committee," consisting of concerned residents and business owners, isn't against marijuana. Their reservations lie in the location of these dispensaries and the potential influx of traffic. Christian Hauser, from the committee, emphasized the need for a more inclusive decision-making process.

On the flip side, Noah Harfouch, a Rochester-based attorney and supporter of the proposal, believes cannabis businesses are becoming as mainstream as any other retail entity. He advocates for embracing this change and acknowledges the profound financial impact they can have on local communities.

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