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IM has 2nd marijuana retailer on course

Rize, already open, granted extension on grow facility

IRON MOUNTAIN — A second marijuana dispensary in Iron Mountain may open by June as Lume Cannabis wraps up the transformation of two dilapidated downtown buildings at a reported cost of $2.1 million.

The city council Monday heard updates from two businesses granted licenses to sell marijuana, giving each of them until Nov. 1 to meet commitments made during the application process in 2019.

In October, Rize Cannabis opened a curbside dispensary at 1580 N. Stephenson Ave. after promising a $5 million investment for its retail outlet and accompanying cultivation center. Lume promised a $2.18 million project that includes a retail shop at 117 and 119 S. Stephenson Ave., as well as a growing and processing component on the west side of Hydraulic Falls Road between Stephenson Avenue and Breitung Cutoff Road.

Last fall, because of the pandemic, the deadline to begin full operations was extended from Oct. 1, 2020, to April 1, 2021. After reviewing progress reports, the council Monday allowed further extensions.

In addition to COVID-19, other complications have come into play, including the council’s decision in January 2020 to allow up to five growing and processing facilities, after initially setting the limit at two.

Rize has been selling marijuana for six months, but it has not completed a growing or processing facility. Owner Julie Wentworth of Petoskey said “things have changed,” as wholesale prices for marijuana in Michigan have plunged about 70% over the past year. Rize is prepared to proceed with cultivation in a new building, although on a smaller scale than first proposed, she said.

Council members were agreeable, provided the company’s total investment and employment numbers remain above what other applicants had promised.

“I know it’s been rough off and on,” Mayor Dale Alessandrini said, addressing all of the businesses.

Lume has spent most of its commitment on the downtown dispensary, due to the poor state of the buildings. But the company also is proceeding with a growing and processing facility, smaller than originally planned, at an estimated cost of $600,000. As work enters the final stages at both sites, Lume informed the council it expects to begin operations in June.

In October, council member Nathan Zemar had proposed expanding the number of marijuana retailers, or lifting the cap entirely, but the idea was turned down.

On Monday, he suggested a third business, Superior Selections, might be entitled to a retail license, as it has successfully operated a cultivation center since June.

Mayor Dale Alessandrini said it would be best to keep that issue on hold.

Under the city’s scoring system, another applicant, The Source, might actually be next in line if the city were to expand the number of retailers, City Manager Jordan Stanchina said.

At the end of nearly 90 minutes of discussion on licensing, council member Kyle Blomquist said the council has to tread lightly, as any aggrieved competitor has the option of litigation.

The Source, which is in the midst of an ownership change, hopes to have a growing and processing facility operating by summer. It also has a Nov. 1 deadline.

A fifth business in line for a grow facility, Lifelong Natural Solutions, first must demonstrate to the city it has been pre-qualified by state regulators for a medical marijuana license.

In all cases, the city will seek documentation from the businesses that they are meeting promised employment levels, with wages of at least $16.75 per hour for non-probationary employees, along with benefit packages.

Rize reports having 45 employees, with additional workers needed for a growing and processing facility. Lume expects to have about 30 employees at its provisioning center, and may soon host a job fair.

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