It is the end of an era—and the beginning of a new one.
On Wednesday, Jan. 8, the state of Michigan gave Bella Sol Wellness Centers and Park Place Provisionary its stamp of approval for the businesses to begin selling recreational marijuana—and the provisionaries expect to soon launch their adult-use cannabis, potentially by next week.
For cannabis advocates, it’s a long overdue move—former President Franklin D. Roosevelt made marijuana illegal in 1937—that will not only end a prohibition rooted in racism but further support economic development in Muskegon and better connect individuals with relief for a variety of medical conditions.
“It’s very exciting for all of us,” said Tara Yeager, the facility manager at Bella Sol Wellness Centers—which debuted in September as a medical marijuana provisionary at 1839 Peck St. in Muskegon. “All of us [at Bella Sol] grew up very passionate about cannabis, and to see it becoming legal now is a milestone.”
The state performed its final inspection for Bella Sol on Wednesday and gave its seal of approval to sell recreational marijuana; now, the business needs to receive its physical license from the state before it can begin selling adult-use cannabis. Yeager said she expects to receive the license by early next week, and, provided that happens, the business expects to celebrate its recreational use grand opening next weekend.
“We plan on having a big opening day with food, drinks and giveaways,” Yeager said.
At Park Place Provisionary, which opened at 1922 Park St. in June, the state performed its final inspection Dec. 18; the shop received its state license on Wednesday. Once it reports what inventory it will be selling to the state, Park Place could celebrate the beginning of its adult-use operations next week.
“We’re very excited,” said Tracy Powers, who runs Agri-Med—the owner of Park Place Provisionary—with her partner, Greg Maki. “We’re hoping to be part of what attracts people to Muskegon.”
Park Place too will hold a grand opening celebration for its adult-use sales, which will include commemorative t-shirt giveaways, food from a local business and a food truck, and more. They’re expecting a crowd for the launch—every day, Park Place Provisionary and its sister site, Exit 9 Provisionary in Nunica, receives between 50 and 60 in-person visits and phone calls asking if they offer adult-use marijuana, Maki said.
“We’re going to be industry leaders; we’re going to have a big impact on a national level,” Powers said.
“The most common comment I get from people when they hear we got a recreational license is, ‘It’s about time; it’s a long time coming,’” Powers said.
The debut of adult-use marijuana in Muskegon, and Michigan, comes a little more than eight decades after the federal government made cannabis illegal. (While cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, 11 states have green-lighted recreational use and 33 states permit medicinal marijuana.)
Following a racist campaign advocating a ban on marijuana, President Roosevelt signed federal legislation making cannabis illegal in 1937. Harry Anslinger, often referred to as the father of the war on weed and the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics—a predecessor to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration—often employed racism in his bid to make marijuana illegal.
“There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers,” Anslinger infamously said during a Congressional hearing prior to Roosevelt making marijuana illegal. “Their Satanic music, jazz and swing result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.”
After the 1937 decision, there were numerous pushes in Michigan to legalize cannabis, and in 2008 Michiganders voted to legalize medicinal marijuna. Then, in November 2018, Michigan voters approved legalizing the use, possession, growth, and sale of recreational marijuana. With the recreational sales, Michigan’s marijuana industry is expected to eventually become a multi-billion dollar enterprise. In the first full fiscal year, combined adult-use and medicinal marijuana sales are projected to generate $180.5 million in taxes—a number that’s poised to grow to $287.9 million by 2022-23, according to the Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency.
As of Jan. 7, recreational retailers had sold about $1.7 million in adult-use products in Michigan, according to the state Marijuana Regulatory Agency.
Muskegon is one of 22 communities that have adopted ordinances allowing recreational marijuana businesses; 1,393 municipalities have rejected marijuana businesses being able to operate there, according to the state. In West Michigan, legislators in Grand Rapids and the city of Muskegon have given the greenlight to adult-use cannabis, while such municipalities as Norton Shores, North Muskegon, Fruitport, Roosevelt Park, and Whitehall have rejected it.
In Muskegon, the marijuana industry is translating to additional tax revenue, pot businesses breathing new life into vacant industrial buildings, building and landscaping upgrades, and other improvements, city officials have said.
“We’re looking forward to it,” Mike Franzak, the city of Muskegon’s director of planning and economic development, said in a previous interview of the recreational marijuana sales.
“We’re seeing it as a way to bolster and beautify an area that’s kind of run down,” Franzak said in reference to the city’s medical and recreational marijuana overlay district—the space where the marijuana businesses are currently permitted to operate. “It’s new retail, and that’s good. We’re hoping there’s a snowball effect where those recreational marijuana sales will not only lead to the beautification of the area but also spur other investment opportunities.”
Muskegon’s medical marijuana overlay district was approved by city lawmakers last year, and its recreational overlay district was given the greenlight by legislators in October. City lawmakers approved both the sale and growth of recreational marijuana in the overlay district, as well as consumption establishments—commercial venues where patrons would be able to purchase and use marijuana and THC on site.
The recreational overlay district is located near Seaway Drive, with one section of the district being bordered by Seaway, Young Avenue, Park Street, and West Hackley Avenue. The district’s second section is bordered by Laketon Avenue, Park Street, Keating Avenue, Holbrook Avenue, and just east of Peck Street.
Bella Sol Wellness Centers CEO Mindy Budzynski has praised Muskegon’s stance on marijuana, saying it was the city lawmakers’ pro-cannabis business attitude that drew her to open a shop in the community.
In a November interview, Budzynski said she chose to operate in Muskegon because “it’s a pretty good size but also has a very progressive city commission and city employees.”
“They are obviously trying to create jobs, create growth, improve housing,” Budzynski said. “We saw it as being a good location in terms of the size, the direction the city is going, their progressive beliefs, and being part of a community that’s very supportive. Everyone has been very welcoming.”
For Yeager, of Bella Sol, recreational marijuana too will translate to alleviating medical issues for individuals who couldn’t previously access a medical marijuana card.
“I’ve used medical marijuana for stomach conditions for years now, and it has benefited me,” Yeager said, who noted that Bella Sol has an on-site nurse that will work with both medicinal and recreational patients.
“We’re just glad to see that finally people are realizing it’s not this average street drug,” Yeager continued. “It’s way more than that. It’s medicine for a lot of people. There are a lot of recreational users who will be using it medicinally as well.”
Both of Muskegon’s provisionaries will offer a variety of products, including flower, edibles, candy bars, and more. At Bella Sol, the business offers a program called “Canna-Val,” which essentially works to match customers with a cannabis treatment plan aimed at alleviating medical issues.
“It matches you with products we have in stock for whatever ailment you have,” Yeager said. “We don’t charge anything for using Canna-Val.”
The owners and staff at Park Place and Bella Sol emphasized they have worked hard to make a positive impact on the community far beyond tax revenue, from building and streetscaping improvements to supporting local nonprofits. At Park Place, for example, the facility has undergone extensive renovations, including connecting the property with city water and sewer, landscaping, lighting, interior design, and more.
“During the holiday, we offered a discount to patients with a donation for Toys for Tots and the Child Abuse Council,” Yeager said, referring to Bella Sol. “We did a cleanup in Lakeside. We’re a lot more than your pot shop at the corner. We’re trying to be a part of the community and give back as much as we can.”