NUNICA — Dozens of medical marijuana patients lined up outside a new dispensary in Crockery Township on Friday for a grand opening.

Exit 9 Provisionary, located at 12261 Cleveland St., is the first state-licensed medical provisioning center in Ottawa County, and the second dispensary to come to Crockery Township and Northwest Ottawa County.

Muskegon business owner Greg Maki is behind the new venture, after opening Muskegon’s first state-licensed operation last month. He said business has been steady since the opening, while the first day of business at the Nunica-area location was promising.

Yolanda Belcher traveled from Standale for the event. She is a caregiver for her husband, who has pain from back and knee surgeries. Belcher said she previously would have to drive to Lansing or Detroit, investing 6-7 hours to pick up pain-killing cannabis products.

“They were putting him on heavy opioids,” she said of her husband, a military veteran. “He’s come off of all of that. He does vape cartridges and edibles. He’s doing wonderful.”

Donna Boelema of Norton Shores said she suffers from chronic pain symptoms that previously limited her mobility. She said she knows a lot of fellow senior citizens who use cannabis products to treat pain symptoms.

“It helps my pain, and it’s got me walking instead of laying in bed all day,” she said. “The medical marijuana has helped me get more mobile and made the pain tolerable.”

Patients visiting Exit 9 first enter a small check-in atrium, where they present their photo ID and medical marijuana license in view of a security camera with facial-recognition technology. Patients are led into a waiting room – for what Maki said should be no more than a 10-minute wait – where they can view a screen with all of the more than 90 products they can purchase, including prices.

The patients are called one by one to a glass display counter that contains a variety of items from edible products to e-cigarettes to containers of marijuana buds with labels.

During Friday’s opening, a secure transport van delivered new packages of products, which Maki said can be specially ordered to the store by patients.

“People typically know what they’re looking for,” he said. “We’re hoping this store here will be able to service people in Kent and Ottawa counties.”

Maki said he has learned through the process of starting a marijuana business the variety of uses people get from it.

“I’ve seen nine people at my other store in neck braces, people in wheelchairs, people on crutches,” he said. “I wanted to help people, but I didn’t realize how many people use it medicinally. It was really surprising to me.”

Crockery Township is among few West Michigan communities that have opted-in for allowing medical marijuana facilities, of which there are five types.

The Grand Haven City Council recently voted to allow the industry, and the city’s Planning Commission is in the process of drafting an ordinance for it.

Boelema said she has attended Norton Shores city meetings to encourage leaders in that community to allow facilities.

For consumers like the Belchers, expanding access to medical marijuana patients is a priority.

“This is the closest,” she said. “It used to be Lansing all the time. It’s so important. It’s always a long distance. Always.”

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