Former JC Penney Mall Store May Become Marijuana Grow

Dec 6, 2017

The March 2017 closure of 138 JC Penney department stores nationwide has left endless empty acres at shopping malls.  Those acres could become an expanse of green at one mall in northern Michigan.

The Houghton, MI township board will be considering a proposal turning a JC Penney into a marijuana grow at their December 11 meeting. The proposal came from the Portage Caregiver Center, which already operates a smaller dispensary with that same Copper Country Mall.

The Copper Country Mall is struggling to find retailers, a common problem among many malls in the US.

A list of current mall residents shows that much of the mall’s ground area is currently occupied by non-retail services like a state Department of Health and Human Services office and a Department of Veteran Affairs Vet Center. An indoor grow operation might be a logical use for the very large empty space.

But some national mall chain ownerships refuse to allow cannabis businesses as tenants, even in legal states. A Westfield mall location in San Francisco was recently ordered to not allow a cannabis chocolate shop by their national management, even after local management had approved the idea.

One township supervisor sounds open to as many new non-retail uses as possible in the empty mall space. "It has potential," said supervisor Bruce Peterson. "Hopefully, in the future, more businesses will locate there."

Michigan is currently a medical marijuana state, but a recreational measure has qualified for the 2018 Michigan ballot.

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