Citizens push to put medical marijuana on GR ballot


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — When it comes to medical marijuana, Grand Rapids city leaders have decided to opt out of the state’s program for now. But a group of local citizens hopes that voters will override the city commission and allow the marijuana industry to find a home in Grand Rapids.

In 2016, the state legislature created a framework that would allow municipalities to legally participate in a business that voters approved nearly a decade ago. But in the last year, only a fraction have opted in. The voters in Grand Rapids decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana five years ago, but the city commission voted against opting in to the state program for medical marijuana earlier this year.

A group of attorneys, business owners, veterans and medical marijuana advocates hope to change that with a ballot initiative in November.

“The city’s just not going to be allowed to say absolutely not after the voters have said absolutely yes,” Tami VandenBerg, a business owner and activist who previously lost a bid for city commission, said.

The group emphasizes the need for accessibility for Grand Rapids residents who now travel to Lansing or farther to get the medical marijuana legally.

“This disproportionately, again, affects people of color and it affects the disabled,” VandenBerg said. “I was also talking to a veteran who was in a wheelchair and again having to go get a ride in a handicapped-accessible van to Lansing. This is ridiculous.”

She said the proposal is patterned after the same ordinance in Ann Arbor.

“We’re not looking for cannabis on every corner, next to schools, next to churches. We want to be smart,” VandenBerg said.

She is joined by David Overholt, who became the face of medical marijuana in Grand Rapids in March

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