Council approves special land use for medical marijuana facility

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published October 11, 2017

FERNDALE — The Ferndale City Council unanimously approved a special land use application for a new medical marijuana facility to be located on Hilton Road.

Approved at the Sept. 25 meeting, the medical marijuana facility, Oasis Wellness Center, will occupy 1921 Hilton Road.

The plans for the building date back to Jan. 14, 2016, but were tabled at the time at the request of Oasis. After coming back to the Planning Commission this year, the special land use was recommended for approval.

“Essentially, the applicant tabled that application, had some homework to do, and shared parking was a key part of that,” City Planner Justin Lyons said. “They worked with some of the businesses and property holders nearby to get some shared parking agreements.”

Ferndale currently is studying its medical marijuana ordinance to see whether it should allow certain license holders to locate in the city under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act, according to city documents, which also state that the City Council would like to have a new ordinance implemented by December.

Lyons said, as the council had chosen to limit the number of facilities that will be able to open up under the existing ordinance to five facilities, that this would be the fifth of the five.

“All of those five facilities, whatever stage they’re in right now, if they wanted to pursue what the updated licensing and regulations related to medical marijuana that the state will put forth in December, any of those facilities would have to come back and go through this process again, and right now, the city is still considering what that process may be and what licenses they want to choose,” he said.

Paul Weisberger, vice president of Oasis Wellness Center, said they’re very excited about the opportunity to be in Ferndale to open up a caregiver facility. Weisberger also is general counsel to Wild Bill’s Tobacco.

“We know how to get our permits. We know how to pay our taxes. We know how to comply with the law,” he said.

Weisberger also wanted to address some accusations and worries from the owner of the nearby Head Shop Smoke Shop, Jeremy Urban, who was in attendance with his lawyer, Evan Chall.

Weisberger said he had heard that the City Council was told to be wary of approving something that would sell marijuana in violation of the Medical Marihuana Act, and that Oasis will sell marijuana that will need an MMFLA license.

“We are not proposing to act as a MMFLA licensee right now,” he said. “We are proposing to follow the MMA. We are doing so because we are law-abiding citizens. We are businessmen who know how to follow the law, and we very much enjoy our freedom, and we very much do not like committing a violation in Ferndale and wipe out our opportunity to be in this business across the state.”

Weisberger said he’s also heard Urban’s concerns that Oasis will put the Head Shop out of business.

“I’m trying to figure out how a dispensary or provisioning center or recreational provisioning center … would put somebody that sells devices that consumes marijuana out of business,” Weisberger said.

Chall, speaking on behalf of Urban, said his client believes the Head Shop, which opened in January 2015, will go out of business.

“Oasis’ business plan specifically provides that they’re going to sell, quote, ‘goods for sale including, but not limited to, T-shirts, candles, creams, teas, oils, paraphernalia, and books and other educational materials,’” he said. “These are exactly the same categories of products that my client is in the business of selling.”

A condition of the Planning Commission’s approval was that paraphernalia would not be sold at Oasis, which Weisberger agreed to.

Chall also said he believes the decision was calculated to put Urban out of business.

“They started working toward approval right after (Urban) moved in,” he said. “This building is literally a stone’s throw away from the Head Shop. This is very calculated. Oasis has commonality of ownership with the folks that own Wild Bill’s. … There’s a vested interest here to try to shut down (Urban).”

Mayor Dave Coulter did not feel persuaded by that argument, and believes Weisberger’s motivation is to get a license and try to get in the marijuana business.

“I don’t think it has anything to do with putting your client out of business, and the fact that he is willing to not sell the kinds of materials that your client sells tells me he’s more interested in the marijuana side of the business than harming your client,” he said.