MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, MI – The first adult-use marijuana store in Muskegon Heights has opened, nearly a year after city officials gave cannabis businesses the green light.
The Reef, a Detroit-based provisioning center, began welcoming customers the end of September with a ribbon cutting ceremony planned for Friday, Oct. 8.
“What we’re trying to do is make the most beautiful dispensary in the area,” said The Reef manager Dakota Loera.
With a large fish tank, a colorful mural and swirling green floors, The Reef is stocked with products from at least 15 distributors including Muskegon-based Michigrown. Loera has plans to expand the store’s selection with more Michigan cannabis products.
Muskegon Heights city officials approved an ordinance to allow recreational marijuana shops in October 2020, joining nearby Muskegon and Muskegon Township.
Related: 10 marijuana shops get initial approval from the city of Muskegon Heights
It was a lengthy process developing a plan to ensure residents were included in employment and business development, said Muskegon Heights City Manager Troy Bell.
Marijuana businesses partly or fully owned by Muskegon Heights residents scored higher on the city’s rubric for granting licenses. The Reef qualified in part because a resident owns their building, Loera said.
Bell said it was important to incentivize businesses to partner with residents because the city has been “financially distressed” for years.
“We were dealing with the repercussions of systemic and structural racism and oppression in our community,” he said.
“We understand the effects of incarceration and the criminal justice system with regard to cannabis has disproportionately affected members of our community.”
Muskegon Heights is 74% Black or African American, according to Census 2020.
An MLive statistical analysis showed that African Americans, young adults and men in general are disproportionately charged with marijuana offenses.
For example, before Michigan voted to legalize adult-use marijuana in 2018, African American men ages 18 to 24 were almost 10 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses compared to white women that age, even though marijuana usages rates between the two groups are only fractionally different, according to the 2018 analysis found.
Related: Michigan’s marijuana industry still struggles with equality
A social equity program created by the Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency aims to provide opportunities for populations disproportionately affected by anti-drug laws to tap into the $2 billion industry.
Bell said the Muskegon Heights community “felt strongly” about aligning itself with these efforts.
“What that means for us moving forward, it means jobs, it means tax revenue, an opportunity for the city to reconstitute its tax base, which has been severely distressed by foreclosures, abandoned homes and condemned properties,” said Bell.
The Muskegon Heights ordinance also includes a commitment from marijuana businesses to donate to educational initiatives, an economic development fund and social justice issues in the community.
Bell estimates the 2% of revenue goal could net roughly $250,000 per licensee.
“I think it’s just the beginning of the next steps in our partnership with the cannabis industry,” he said.
The Reef expects to create at least 20 jobs and aims to hire mostly local employees. Loera, who is from Twin Lake, says the business also plans to hold community events, bringing food trucks and DJs to the store.
“We want to set an extremely good example,” he said.
Six more dispensaries and five microbusinesses, shops that grow, process and sell marijuana, have been approved by the city of Muskegon Heights.
Bell expects two of the microbusinesses to open in the next 60 days.
The Reef, 525 W. Norton Ave., is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The phone number is 231-283-6500.
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