Malls across the United States are seeking tenants to fill vacancies created as retailers close stores.
Shoppers will find offices, service businesses and schools amid traditional apparel stores – and, in one Michigan mall, a medical marijuana dispensary.
Now its owner wants to expand by establishing a marijuana growing operation in a closed JC Penney at the Copper Country Mall, just south of Houghton. Township officials will consider the request for the former anchor store in December.
The dispensary – and the possibility of a grow facility in a closed department store – appear to be rare in the U.S., said retail expert Jeff Green.
So far, he said, most mall managers decline legal marijuana dispensaries in shopping centers, Green said, citing a recent conversation with a broker in Colorado. And in Pennsylvania, mall owner Simon Property Group is going to court to keep a medical marijuana dispensary from opening in a former restaurant on an outlot at the former Franklin Mills Mall.
“It is unique to what I’m seeing across the country,” Green said of the dispensary in Houghton.
The Portage Caregiver Center moved into the Copper Country Mall within the past year. It came before the township in fall 2016 when licensed caregiver Tyler Ross and Chris Hoffman spoke at a board meeting, following a conversation with two trustees, according to meeting minutes.
Ross, who’s the registered agent of the company, came back to the township in August, describing to trustees how the JC Penney store could be converted to a grow operation.
“He indicated that it would require about forty individuals to renovate JC Penney site for a grow operation,” according to meeting minutes. Ross did not respond to MLive’s requests for comment.
“(He d)iscussed the “need” for medical marihuana in a community of this size – he