Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Ironwood marijuana licenses tentatively approved


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Ironwood — The Ironwood City Commission preliminarily approved the first licenses under its adult-use marijuana ordinance during a special meeting with the city planning commission on Thursday.

The 4-1 city commission approval followed a unanimous 7-0 planning commission approval of 10 applications in five categories of marijuana retail, growing, processing and micro-businesses in Ironwood. The approved applications were recommended by the city department of community development following a scoring and ranking process of all 16 applicants.

“We had a lot of really great project proposals, many of these projects are redeveloping dilapidated structures and bringing non-conforming uses into conforming uses,” said Tom Bergman, director of community development. “So, it was a very competitive process and many times there were very few points that separated those who were approved from those who were not.”

The vote against approving any of the licenses came from city commissioner Joseph Cayer, who is also the ex-officio member of the planning commission. He has maintained opposition to marijuana businesses in Ironwood to include voting against the adult-use ordinance that was approved by a 3-2 split vote in September 2020.

From this point forward the successful applicants must complete the state process along with the city development agreement, Bergman said. The site plans must be filed with the community development office before the city clerk issues a license.

“The approval of the recommendations by the city commission and city planning commission are considered a preliminary approval,” Bergman said. “All of the approved applicants would still be required to successfully complete the state marijuana establishment license before the city license is issued.”

The recommended applications for retail marijuana establishment licences were to Higher Love Corporation, and Rize U.P. The license allows retail marijuana product sales to individuals ages 21 or older.

Higher Love Corporation is the retail division of Ottawa Innovations, LLC. The company plans to demolish existing homes and businesses at 824 E. Cloverland Drive, for construction of a new retail outlet, according to Joni Moore, president of Ottawa Innovations, LLC, the cultivation branch of the company, at the March planning commission meeting.

Rize U.P. plans to renovate the former surplus store at 411 E. Cloverland Drive for use as a retail outlet, according to comments at the April planning commission meeting from owners Bill and Julie Wentworth, of Petoskey. Half of the building space would serve as the dispensary, with remaining space divided for lease to a future retail outlet and a restaurant.

The recommended class B growing licenses were to Ottawa Innovations, LLC, and Free World Farms. The license allows for growing up to 500 plants.

Ottawa Innovations plans to build a growing facility on a vacant lot at the corner of East Ayer Street and Luxmore Street.

The Free World Farms license is contingent on conditional use and site plan approval. The Ironwood-based company did not present a site survey or site plan at the May planning commission meeting and that will need review and approval, Bergman said.

Free World Farms plans to renovate and repurpose existing structures of the former Ahonen Lumber Mill property at 90 Mill St., according to company spokesperson Brandon Midthun at the May meeting. The company applied for a retail license to operate a store at 151 E Cloverland Drive but was not among the recommended candidates.

The recommended class C grower facility license applicants were The Fire Station Cannabis Company, and Rize U.P. The license allows for up to 2,000 plants.

The Fire Station Cannibis Company will build a new facility at 122 and 124 Luxmore St., according to co-owners Stosh Wasik and Logan Stauber at a March planning commission meeting. The company purchased the site and will remove two blighted homes that are considered non-conforming structures within the city industrial zone.

The Fire Station Cannibis Company also applied for a retail license to open in the former Western Auto building at 507 N Lake St. That business plan did not score among the top two applications.

Rize U.P. plans to build a new facility at the southeast corner of Commerce Street and Iron King Road, in the northeast portion of the Ironwood industrial park.

The recommendations for marijuana processor licenses were Free World Farms and CultivateD, LLC. The license allows a business to obtain marijuana from establishments for processing, packaging for sale to other establishments.

CultivateD is an Ironwood company that also applied for a retail license to operate at 326 W. McLeod Ave., and a class C grower and processor marijuana establishment at 1700 Iron King Road. Neither of those applications were among the top two recommendations.

The recommendations for the marijuana micro-business licenses are Three Twins Cultivators, and RaushCo Agriscience Inc. The license allows for cultivation, processing and packaging of up to 150 plants for sale or transfer to other marijuana safety compliance facilities.

Three Twins plans to build a growing and processing facility with a separate onsite retail dispensary at 138 West Ayer St., according to project partners Joshua Norman, Ben Thompson and Benji Fisher at an April planning commission meeting.

RaushCo plans to open in the former video store at 255 Cloverland Dr. At the April planning commission meeting owner Ken Raush said the company has already received its state pre-qualification license.

There were no applications for class A grower licenses for up to 100 plants, Bergman said. There were no applications for safety compliance facility licenses, or for the secure transporter licenses.

Sam Davey, planning commission chair, suggested that the city expand the licenses to four per category with support from other members, noting that the additional jobs, new building and rehabilitated older properties are of benefit to the community. Planning commission member Scott Bissell agreed, adding that scoring was very close.

Planning commission member Mark Silver recommended delaying expansion consideration until the first businesses have had a chance to open and operate for some time.

City manager Scott Erickson said that expanding the licenses would require amending the adult-use marijuana ordinance and going through the public hearing process. He said the matter would be added to the city commission meeting agenda for discussion.

Bergman said he could not put a timeline on when the businesses would be opening. It is a matter of waiting to see how long the process with state licensing will require, he said.