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WITH VIDEO: First marijuana dispensary to open in Alpena

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ALPENA — The first marijuana dispensary in Alpena is set to open today, nearly four years after voters in Michigan voted to legalize the use and sale of the drug.

Neighborhood Provisions, located on Washington Avenue, celebrated the shop’s imminent opening Thursday afternoon with a ribbon cutting ceremony hosted by the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce.

After the ribbon was cut, select members of the public were given a tour of the new business and educated on the types of hemp products in stock and how the staff will work with customers to find the right item for them.

Medical marijuana will be available for purchase today to people who have a medical marijuana card, but adult-use marijuana won’t begin being sold until about April 8.

Check out the video below. Viewing on mobile? Turn your device horizontally for the best viewing experience. Story continues below the video.

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz A budtender at Neighborhood Provisions in Alpena chats with supporters of the new marijuana store during a tour on Thursday. It is the first marijuana shop to open in Alpena County.

Co-owner Kevin Currier said after seeing the turnout of supporters in the store that all of the hard work, time, and investment into the store has been worthwhile. The support he and his partners and staff have received has humbled him, he said.

“I am elated,” Currier said. “I’m elated for what it took to get here, where we are now, and after seeing everyone gathered (Thursday) at this spot, I’m elated for what’s to come.”

Currier said the short delay for the store’s ability to sell recreational marijuana, which can only be sold to people 21 years and older, is due to some documents that still need to be signed.

“It’s paperwork,” he said. “It is always paperwork. It is nothing concerning. It is just a matter of time.”

After Proposal 1 passed in Michigan, the City of Alpena chose to opt out of the law making it illegal for marijuana businesses to open in the city.

Bob Currier and Kevin Currier use a large pair of scissors to cut a ribbon celebrating the opening of Neighborhood Provisions in Alpena. The new business will be the first marijuana dispensary in the city. It opens on Friday.

In late 2020, the Alpena Municipal Council voted to allow for medical marijuana businesses to operate in the city and then in November of last year, it voted to move forward with adult-use marijuana.

The path to getting the needed license from the city was not an easy one for Currier and his partners and supporters.

When the council voted to allow medical marijuana businesses in the city, it placed a cap of two shops in the ordinance. Several companies applied for licenses, including Neighborhood Provisions.

After Neighborhood Provisions wasn’t one of the final two selected, an appeal was made to encourage the council to take a second look at the application and double-check how it was scored. Council stood with its earlier decision and a lawsuit was filed against the city and some of its staff.

Ed Black, 26th Circuit Court judge, dismissed the case early in 2021, after attorneys for the parties requested all claims made by the plaintiff be withdrawn, without cost or fees.

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz A pair of budtenders stand next to a display that features dozens of different types of marijuana while at work at Neighborhood Provisions in Alpena on Thursday.

Shortly after, the council voted to remove the cap and that helped set the stage for Neighborhood Provisions to receive its license.

Currier said he is now focusing on the future and is excited to work with his staff to fill a need in the community that has gone unfilled for many years, and to educate the public on the potential benefits of marijuana. He said marijuana is viewed much differently by people than a decade ago and most people are not as opposed to it as before.

“The change in public perception has been incredible,” Currier said. “Now it is a quiet acceptance from those who maybe don’t understand it or are against it, rather than a forceful push like it would have been a decade or so ago. I think now most people know what this is, what it could be, and aren’t scared to talk about it.”

Currier said anyone who would like to stop in and tour the store can do so and he encourages people to ask questions so they can learn more about the drug, its effects, and proper use.

“All they need to do is stop in and we’ll do everything we can to fill their needs and help them,” he said. “We will be making a big push into public education.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.com.

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