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UPDATE: KBIC opening marijuana dispensaries and a grow operation

Crystal Falls and Marquette Township could get recreational/medical marijuana storefronts.
KBIC opening recreational/medical marijauna dispensaries in 2 U.P. locations plus a grow...
KBIC opening recreational/medical marijauna dispensaries in 2 U.P. locations plus a grow operation(Miranda O'Bryan)
Published: Nov. 24, 2020 at 2:05 PM EST
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BARAGA, Mich. (WLUC) - UPDATE: The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community is getting into the marijuana business. Director of Cannabis Development for the KBIC Gary Loonsfoot said the tribe would be opening two marijuana dispensaries and a grow operation in the next five months.

Loonsfoot says recreational and medical marijuana would be sold at the dispensaries. The floor plan will be similar to other establishments, with a lobby area for CBD oil and other items for sale. There will be a separate room for sales of marijuana with THC, plus a fulfillment area.

Loonsfoot said the tribe has allocated $4 million in capital expenditures for the sites. That could be reduced as profits are reinvested in the business.

The tribe’s first dispensary is opening in Crystal Falls at 32 Superior Street. It’s scheduled to open by the end of this year. The tribe is spending $300,000 in remodeling the turn-of-the-century building into a dispensary. The building was a shoe store.

The second KBIC dispensary is planned for Marquette Township at the now closed Ojibwa Express gas station. Loonsfoot says it should open in early 2021.

As of late October, Marquette Township was still working on both medical and adult-use recreational marijuana ordinances that would allow for and regulate those types of land uses in Marquette Township.

The gas pumps and tanks at the former Ojibwa Express site have been drained but remain in place. Loonsfoot said they could be used in the future if the gas station were to reopen. However, it would have to be separate from the marijuana business.

Loonsfoot says the cost of remodeling the Marquette Township gas station would be much less than the Crystal Falls storefront, since the gas station was built in 2005. He adds the gas station canopy area could be used by customers to pull in and wait for their order to be delivered to their vehicle. Loonsfoot says this is in line with the current COVID-19 guidelines.

According to Marquette Township Planning and Zoning Administrator, Jason McCarthy, the township is working with the tribe, but “KBIC fully understands that Marquette Township does not currently allow for Adult-Use Recreational & Medical Marijuana facilities in the township.”

“The Marquette Township Board of Trustees did task the Planning Commission with drafting zoning language to consider the allowance and regulation of Adult-Use Recreational & Medical Marijuana facilities in the township, but neither the Planning Commission of Township Board have taken any formal action on the matter,” McCarthy said in an email to TV6. “The final, draft zoning language will be reviewed by the Marquette Township Planning Commission at their December 9, 2020 meeting. At that time, they may forward it to the Township Board for their consideration.”

McCarthy also said that while KBIC has indicated its desire to open the facility and has been present as past meetings, the Marquette Charter Township Board of Trustees will ultimately decide on what land uses are permitted.

In spring of 2021, Loonsfoot said the tribe would have a grow operation in Negaunee Township on the tribe’s property at the old Marquette County Airport. Plans call for building three hard-sided greenhouses, 20,000 square feet in size, in the next two years. The marijuana grown in Negaunee Township will be sold in the KBIC dispensaries, as well as in other Upper Michigan dispensaries.

According to Negaunee Township Manager, Nick Leach, the KBIC presented plans to repurpose existing buildings at the old airport. A site plan was done to rezone 20 acres and that rezoning was approved. Leach says the KBIC however, has not formally applied for a licensed marijuana facility or submitted those plans to Negaunee Township.

The KBIC tribe expects to employ about 65 people between all three U.P. sites. Loonsfoot said Native Americans and non-Native Americans would be hired.

The tribe is working with the State of Michigan on licensing and guidelines. The dispensaries are not on tribal property and need local approval. Loonsfoot said the tribe is going through the state, because the U.S. Department of Justice classifies marijuana as an illegal substance. Loonsfoot said under state rules, the tribe would only be able to deal with state licensed properties.

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