MUSKEGON, Mich. - Blight has been a problem in Muskegon for years. City leaders say the medical marijuana industry is the solution for fixing up one of its most rundown neighborhoods.
That's because in order to get a Michigan license to sell medical marijuana, you have to own property. If you want to open up shop in Muskegon, there's only one place approved to do it.
The neighborhood highlighted in green on this map is the only place zoned to allow medical marijuana properties.
It's around three square miles of industrial property that has been vacant for nearly a decade.
“I think that neighborhood needed a hand up. We struggled for a long time to figure out what that hand-up would be,” Muskegon City Manager Frank Peterson said.
The city manager says medical marijuana is that helping hand.
“We’re seeing a lot of publicly owned land, land bank properties, vacant properties, starting to change hands...under the premise that they’ll be developed for the industry,” Peterson said.
Connie Maxim-Sparrow helps people in the marijuana business navigate Michigan's laws.
The zoning changes were made at the beginning of this year. Maxim-Sparrow says 15 of the 20 available properties have already been snatched up at higher prices.
“As soon as they close on their buildings, which most of them have in the last 4-5 weeks...once that happens, you’re going to see a tremendous change in what the visuals of these properties look like,” Maxim-Sparrow said.
Maxim-Sparrow says the zoning is a step in the right direction, by bringing business to a ghost town.
“This area used to be industry, many many decades ago...and it’s never been able to turn from industry to something else. This is its chance to make that transition,” Peterson said.
Developers are also required to make improvements to the building before getting a Muskegon license.
Stipulations include getting rid of blight and even improving buildings so they can have multiple uses, if the marijuana industry should ever leave the property. Developers say the facilities could open early next year.