SALINE, MI – Since giving the green light to recreational marijuana, the city of Saline has experienced a surge of interest from retailers.
In fact, according to council member Jim Dell’Orco, council offices have been “flooded” with questions.
Officials even decided to temporarily stop accepting new applications as they smoothed out some wrinkles in the process, ultimately voting to increase the original 250-foot buffer between dispensaries to 1,000 feet.
“I think that was perhaps the only shortcoming that existed in the original ordinance,” said Saline Mayor Brian Marl. “Our fear is that we would be saturated with marijuana dispensaries in the city of Saline.”
There are currently six proposed locations for marijuana: 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 lot near Zippy Auto Wash.
“I knew there was going to be a lot of interest because the players in this business are a cash operation … They have a lot of money to play with,” said Dell’Orco.
READ MORE: Saline opens its doors to recreational marijuana businesses within the city limits
The road to the grass run
Saline first voted to allow medical marijuana in June 2021. Then, in March 2022, the city council voted to allow recreational marijuana businesses in the city.
Saline has decided not to set a limit on permits for marijuana, but to instead limit activities to specific zoning districts in commercial areas outside the center and use buffers to limit the number of retailers. This made it even more appealing to potential businesses.
Shaun Mansour, a lawyer and owner of Rush Cannabis – one of Saline’s dispensaries – said one thing that made the city “attractive” was the lack of a hat.
“I praise Saline for creating an ordinance … which essentially limits the number of places by excluding them into zones,” Mansour said. “There are a number of municipalities that have a ranking system or a points system and that almost always causes lawsuits because it is arbitrary.”
Dell’Orco said there were a few different reasons behind allowing recreational retailers within the city as well as giving voters what they want and generating tax revenue.
One of the important reasons for Dell’Orco was to maintain control over how marijuana is regulated within the city instead of allowing others to control it.
“Essentially, the people who want to start these businesses with their lobbies and their people would be in the driver’s seat,” he said. “If they had their own ballot proposals and the voters approved it, the city would lose a lot of control over the zoning, licensing and regulation of these businesses if we didn’t decide to make it.”
Not only that, Dell’Orco said the city also expects retailers to redevelop empty properties or older buildings that could use renovations, however, some applicants have shown that this is not necessarily the case.
“It has happened to some extent, but what we’re discovering in the application process is that they want to buy completely vacant land and build from scratch, or they want to take over existing businesses,” said Dell’Orco.
Mickey’s milk pie
One of the main places that highlighted this was Mickey’s Dairy Twist. There was a community reaction when residents learned that the beloved local ice cream shop was poised to become the city’s first dispensary.
Rush Cannabis is expected to fill the former headquarters of the long-standing Saline ice cream shop following the final approval of the site plan.
Mansour said he saw dispensaries redeveloping old buildings that other retailers wouldn’t have thought of touching. He said Mickey’s Dairy Twist is an example of a building that can use a transformation.
The dispensary has another location in Hazel Park, open in April. Mansour said Rush Cannabis aims to open its Saline office by Thanksgiving and be the first dispensary in town.
READ MORE: No more ice cream at Mickey’s Dairy Twist, but a planned marijuana shop for Saline
Future of marijuana in Saline
Saline city council member Kevin Camero-Sulak isn’t surprised at the number of applications the city is receiving.
“Apparently we have an abundance of applications … but that doesn’t mean all of them will be approved or that there are places that they can rent or build,” he said.
Despite the number of questions, Marl isn’t worried that the city will be overrun with marijuana or that all dispensaries will last. She predicts that two to three, possibly four, dispensaries will end up inside the city.
“I think in this particular situation, the market will eventually correct itself if, and if that’s the key word, we become overly saturated with dispensaries in Saline,” he said.
As marijuana continues to develop in Saline, Marl looks to surrounding areas like Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti and realizes that recreational marijuana retailers can work. She encourages city residents to get in touch with questions and concerns.
“Take a look around in Washtenaw County,” he said. “We have countless examples of good, attractive and stable communities that have engaged these types of industries and that has not … diminished the quality of life of their particular communities.”
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