| Port Huron Times Herald
More than two weeks after licensees were announced, Port Huron is likely months away from seeing any marijuana businesses open up shop.
Some are still waiting for active businesses to move or relocate, while others wait to see how emerging litigation against the city shakes out.
As of Friday, City Clerk Cyndee Jonseck said her office had received eight appeals of the scoring process used to identify provisional licenses. One lawsuit has been filed in court, though officials have said others may be on the way.
“The ordinance requires me to appoint a hearing officer for appeals and I have appointed retired Judge Daniel Kelly,” Jonseck said via email. “The hearing officer will evaluate the appeals and issue a report and recommendation to me. I will review the report and recommendation and make a final determination, which is appealable to City Council.
“There is no way to determine if or how the appeal process would impact provisional license holders until the process is complete.”
Either way, several operators said they’re hoping to find success in Port Huron as part of a much larger, still-emerging marijuana industry.
“I think it’s really difficult for any city to fairly assess who is going to be best suited to be in their city among so many applications,” said attorney Denise Pollicella, of Pollicella, PLLC, the agent for Port Huron provisional licensee Revolution Strains, Inc. “This industry is already incredibly competitive. There are still relatively few municipalities in Michigan that allow recreational, adult-use marijuana retail establishments.”
Revolution Strains, which does business as the Nirvana Center, was one of seven successful entities awarded two dozen medical and recreational licenses last month.
In all, applications for more than 80 licenses had been submitted.
The seven awarded entities are proposing establishments at 10 sites.
1033 River St. — The Exhibit
Tucked in a neighborhood west of 10th Avenue is a small office building along the Black River zoned for general business.
Mark Aubrey, the resident agent for the Exhibit Cannabis Co LLC, said he plans to use the entire building at 1033 River St. for a marijuana retail shop and consumption lounge.
Like all successful marijuana applicants, the operator hasn’t completed arrangements to occupy or purchase the site. The first floor is currently vacant, while the second floor is still occupied by an ophthalmologist’s office.
“We’re trying to relocate them now,” Aubrey said. “We should be successful within 30 days with that.”
Aubrey said they can still move forward without the provisioning medical license they applied for but weren’t awarded.
He said a realistic timeframe “to get the doors open” was six to nine months, and he put the capital investment to redevelop the River Street site anywhere from $1 million to $2 million.
“There’s a lot of moving parts. So, I’m not going to waste any time,” Aubrey said. “I’m going to apply to the building department, planning department, go through the motions, and also the build out, as well. … And I told the city, I’m going to move as soon as fast as I possibly can. I’m going to try not to let the city down. I appreciated the opportunity.”
He also said he picked the property on River Street for its waterfront location.
“The fact that that we can have both slips and bulk traffic come up and go to the retail part of it” Aubrey said. He added, “I like the parking. It has two large parking lots adjacent to (it).”
As an operator, Aubrey admitted he’s new to the marijuana industry. For 15 years, he said he’s been pawn broker with four shops around Metro Detroit but now has a grow facility in Warren.
2569 Lapeer Ave. — Revolutionary Strains
There are existing Nirvana Center locations operated by Revolution Strains out of state, as well as in Michigan, including in Center Line and Traverse City. Another shop is opening up in Bay City.
The city awarded the group provisioning center and retailer licenses for a shop at 2569 Lapeer Ave., and Pollicella said they were “excited to up in Port Huron.”
She didn’t have a timeline for when they planned to open but said, “Barring any kind of court action that would prevent us from doing so, we want to open as soon as possible.”
The Lapeer property was previously Peak Performance Oil and Lube but is, at present, unoccupied.
“We felt good about the Lapeer location from the beginning because we were making use of a property that had been vacant for a while and distressed,” Pollicella said.
In addition to general renovations to adapt and remodel the building, she said they will “improve landscaping and curb appeal.” She said she couldn’t speak to the financial investment it will require.
1926 Bancroft St. and 2101 Cypress St. — J Leaf LLC
J Leaf LLC was awarded six provisional microbusiness licenses at two nearby industrial sites in lower Port Huron — four at 2101 Cypress St. and two at 1926 Bancroft St.
The Cypress location has been listed for several businesses, including SBR Printing USA. Attempts to reach property owners, as well as J Leaf LLC’s resident agent Susan Vasquez were unsuccessful.
At the Bancroft address, one business representative confirmed trucking company Pride Transfer Center was still in operation and would have to relocate but declined to comment.
According to city ordinances, microbusinesses allow marijuana operators to grow, process and sell cannabis products onsite similar to breweries. They can only operate in industrial zones.
1600 Pine Grove Ave. — Ox Tail Inc.
Amid Port Huron’s marijuana application process early this year, Chris Aiello said he and his partners hoped to remodel the circular building at 1600 Pine Grove Ave. within 60 to 90 days if they were awarded licenses successfully by this spring.
Ox Tail Inc. applied for both medical and recreational licensing at the location and was successful in obtaining a provisional retailer permit. However, as of the end of February, the Ernest Camera Shoppe was still in business there.
Although they’ve discussed it, owner Terry Ernest said he wasn’t yet able to discuss the business’ plans to vacate the property.
“Those are things we’re working on,” he said. “I don’t have definite answers yet. We haven’t sold the building.”
Aiello said they’d have to “see what works best for the community” and the business.
“We want to be good corporate citizens,” he said. “We love Port Huron, and we plan on working hand-in-hand with elected officials and the regulatory agencies that oversee us in a successful grand opening shortly.”
2358 Military St. — Lime Canna
Farm Science, doing business as Lime Canna, had originally applied for nine medical and recreational marijuana licenses in Port Huron.
That included applications for two process and grower licenses, a designated consumption, provisioning and retail licenses at 2300 and 2358 Military St.
But only one processor and grower license was provisionally awarded for the Military site, part of which is home to the well-known Port Huron Seaway Terminal on the St. Clair River.
In a recent interview, Farm Science’s resident agent Mark Abraham, of Fort Gratiot, said his group had big plans for the latter, but that having no retail or consumption component for such a big space didn’t make sense. He said they were considering alternative options, though he hoped to avoid legal action against the city.
The 2300 address is a vacant parcel across the street from the Seaway Terminal owned by Detroit Edison. The James C. Acheson Foundation purchased the terminal property itself, according to the St. Clair County register of deeds, for $1.7 million from the city of Port Huron in 2002.
“It took us a month in talking to Mr. Acheson just for him, being the solid man that he is, to even be willing to sell it to us, knowing what the use was,” Abraham said. “… We’re very hopeful that there’s a path for this to happen.”
Mike DeLong, vice president of operations for Acheson Ventures, said he was aware of the proposal, forwarding questions to CEO Donna Niester, who didn’t return calls for comment last week.
2337 10th St., 1814 10th St. and 515 Wall St. — Portage Acquisitions, Inc.
At 13, Portage Acquisitions, Inc., submitted the most applications of any single entity to Port Huron and was awarded eight.
Ranked highly enough were licenses for provisional retailer and provisioning permits at 2337 and 1814 10th St. and 515 Wall St., as well as a designated consumption license for the 10th Street properties.
Portage Acquisitions’ resident agent is Kenneth Beams, who could not be reached for comment.
The 10th Street sites are within half a mile of each other — 1814 most recently being a Flagstar Bank and 2337, according to Times Herald archives, historically a supplies store.
The building at 515 Wall St. has long-been vacant and occupied by a variety of businesses for decades. Located just west of Military Street downtown, it’s housed the 3rd Roc Café, Yorkshire’s Tavern, Headwinds Tavern, the Wall Street Café and Down Bar-B-Q. The site housed Israel Photography Studio from 1927 until 1980.
Property owners could not be reached.
400 Quay St. — Green Standard Cultivation
The retailer license provisionally awarded to Green Standard Cultivation was the only application it submitted to Port Huron.
The licensee is working with the owners of Wings Etc. next door to the restaurant at 400 Quay St., which has housed restaurants in the past — most recently the Blackfish. Owner Gene Harrison said recently they’ve worked with the folks behind Green Standard before and hoped, acting as a landlord, that their marijuana dispensary would help bolster plans to redevelop the Quay bock as an entertainment district.
Representatives from Green Standard could not be reached for comment and were not available through Harrison.