Royal Oak moved closer to securing its first three recreational marijuana businesses after a marathon meeting of the municipal commission which extended until Tuesday morning.
The Royal Oak City Commission overwhelmingly approved special permits for Gatsby Cannabis on Meijer Drive, Royal Treatment on East Harrison Avenue and Best Lyfe on Woodward Avenue.
The five-and-a-half-hour meeting included two hours of public comments from anti-business residents.
But the commissioners were not swayed by the opponents.
Commissioner Patricia Paruch said the time has come for residents to accept that recreational marijuana is legal in Michigan. She pointed out that residents are allowed to grow and use marijuana in their homes and that at least businesses are located away from residential areas.
“It’s going to be in your neighborhood,” Paruch said of marijuana. “People will grow it in their basement. People will smoke it on their patio in the summer because they are allowed to use it for personal use. I think as a community we need to learn that and educate people that it’s here now, it’s going to be very close to you. It could be near you.
Royal Oak’s neighbors – Madison Heights, Ferndale and Hazel Park – have already embraced recreational marijuana businesses.
Gatsby Cannabis had the most ambitious of the three projects, with plans to open a nearly 13,000 square foot marijuana processing, cultivation and retail facility in a vacant auto services building.
The board voted 5-1 to approve the proposal.
Commissioner Melanie Macey cast the only negative vote, saying she was opposed to opening a business within 88 feet of the Oakland Schools Tech Campus. Michigan prohibits cannabis businesses from opening within 1,000 feet of a school unless approved by a local government.
Mayor Michael Fournier said his children could attend school and he is not worried about the dispensary, noting that his children see liquor stores on the way to school.
“Maybe in my house we see things differently,” Fournier said. “Call us progressives, call us whatever you want. In our home, we don’t try to protect our children. We try to arm our children with information.
Former Royal Oak Mayor Dennis Cowan, who represents Gatsby Cannabis, said the company plans to donate $225,000 to charities in the city each year for the next decade.
“We take our community involvement very seriously, and Gatsby puts his money where his mouth is,” Cowan told the commission. “They look forward to contributions to the community.”
Royal Treatment plans to open a 3,000 square foot eco-friendly dispensary in a vacant building on the 400 block of E. Harrison Avenue. It includes solar panels, wind turbines and a green roof.
Former City Commissioner James Rasor, who represents Royal Treatment, said the company plans to donate $50,000 a year to charities in Royal Oak.
The committee approved the project unanimously.
Best Lyfe plans to open a micro marijuana business on Woodard Avenue in an abandoned mattress store and restaurant just south of 14 Mile Road. The company will have up to 150 plants.
Some residents objected to the business because it is adjacent to condos.
The committee approved the project by 6 votes to 1.
In nearby Detroit, the city has started accepting applications for recreational marijuana businesses.