MI: Marijuana Commission Proposed With Lansing’s Ordinance


Lansing – More changes are ahead for the city’s proposed medical marijuana ordinance that – if approved – would affect patients, caregivers, business owners, neighbors and the city officials in charge of enforcing it.

A fifth draft of the ordinance is expected to be completed at the end of this month by the City Attorney’s Office and reviewed at City Council’s next Committee on Public Safety meeting. The public meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. Aug. 26 in council’s chambers on the 10th floor of City Hall.

The committee last week reviewed a fourth draft of the 27-page ordinance and brainstormed potential changes pertaining to medical marijuana “establishments.” This ordinance defines establishments as any medical marijuana provisioning center, grower facility, processor facility or safety compliance facility in the city. Provisioning centers are often called dispensaries by state-licensed medical marijuana patients, caregivers and business owners.

“We’ve listened to what the public has had to say,” At-Large Council Member Carol Wood said Monday. “We have tried to integrate some of their comments and questions about the ordinance as we continue to move forward.”

The new draft could reduce licensing criteria for medical marijuana establishments from 13 guidelines to three. It also could include a seven-member medical marijuana commission appointed by Mayor Virg Bernero that would review all license applications for establishments.

Wood is optimistic City Council’s full body can approve an ordinance and have the city begin enforcing it by mid-November. She is chair of the public safety committee, which includes Third Ward Council Member Adam Hussain and At-Large Council Member Kathie Dunbar. The committee has been working on drafts with the City Attorney’s Office for several months.

A medical marijuana commission could include residents representing each of the city’s four wards, a patient advocate, a business expert and Bob Johnson, the city’s planning and neighborhood development director. Police Chief Michael Yankowski and Fire Chief Randy Talifarro could also provide feedback as non-voting members.

Randy Hannan, Bernero’s executive assistant, wrote Monday in an email to the Lansing State Journal that appointments to a medical marijuana commission would be handled in the same fashion as any other mayoral appointment to a city board or commission.

“We would solicit applications for appointment from the public and from individuals with the specific qualifications required for the position,” Hannan wrote, “then Mayor Bernero would choose the best candidates to submit to Council for confirmation.”

Under the proposal in its current form, marijuana establishment owners would apply for a license through the City Clerk’s Office and then have their applications reviewed by the Bernero’s medical marijuana commission.

Each application under the city’s proposed ordinance would require a $5,000 fee. If an application is denied, the applicant would get $2,500 returned. If a license is issued, the first annual fee would be $10,000. To renew a license, an additional $10,000 fee would be required each year. Those who have their license renewals rejected would receive $5,000 of the renewal fee back.

Wood said the public safety committee still is studying how to create a fee structure that’s fair for those who want licenses and covers administrative costs incurred by the city.

“We want to make sure anything that we put forth has funding,” Wood said.

The city currently doesn’t assess fees to operate establishments. City officials have said publicly in meetings discussing a proposed ordinance that assessing fees would likely cut down on the number of provisioning centers and other establishments. Under the ordinance’s fourth draft, there was no mention of a cap on the number of licenses the city would allow.

Hussain said Monday he’s pleased with the progress being made with the ordinance, but finds it tough to anticipate what the final version will look like before it goes before a vote. He believes strict zoning regulations would help make sure there aren’t too many establishments in each of the city’s four wards.

“It will be interesting to see what shows up in that fifth draft because I’m just not sure,” Hussain said. “We’re compromising, we’re trying to work through the (fourth) draft, but we want to get the thing done.”

Messages left Monday with Dunbar weren’t returned.

If Lansing’s medical marijuana ordinance is approved, violations could fall under the jurisdiction of the City Attorney’s Office, Police Department, Fire Department Office of Code Enforcement or Building Safety Department. The Ingham County Health Department could also serve an enforcement role.

Several zoning regulations are under consideration that would prevent establishments like dispensaries from being within 1,000 feet from residential neighborhoods, churches, schools and daycare centers.

Jeremy Hall, pastor of Lansing’s First Cannabis Church of Logic and Reason, is curious to know how the zoning could be enforced. He said Monday the church shouldn’t be affected by a new ordinance because it doesn’t appear to fit the city’s “marijuana establishment” definition.

“You can’t make us stay away from ourselves,” Hall said laughing.

The church has services once a month in a strip mall where the Lansing Herbal Farmers Market is located on Southland Avenue, near Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Members of the congregation who have state-issued medical marijuana cards are allowed to smoke during services and share cannabis-related “religious materials” with those 21 or older.

Those who don’t have cards must follow state and local laws at the facility. If the city does force the church to move its services, Hall isn’t worried because he’s already received offers from others churches to relocate. “I feel very comfortable that it wouldn’t be anything more than a minor inconvenience,” Hall said.

Michigan’s Medical Marihuana Act of 2008 allows use of marijuana for medical reasons by persons who have been authorized by a physician to hold a state-issued medical marijuana card. It also allows patients and caregivers to cultivate marijuana plants. The city’s proposed ordinance refers to marijuana as “marihuana” because it’s the term used in the state law.

In 2013, Lansing voters passed a City Charter amendment that mandates nothing in the city’s Code of Ordinances applies to the use, possession or transfer of less than once ounce of marijuana on private property by a person who is at least 21. Medical marijuana establishments have operated in the city at their own peril because the medical marihuana statute did not mention dispensaries or set parameters for how they could operate.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Marijuana Commission Proposed With Lansing’s Ordinance
Author: Eric Lacy
Contact: 1-517-377-1000
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Website: Lansing State Journal