Lansing – After more than 10 months of public meetings and revisions to five drafts of a proposed medical marijuana ordinance, the City Council’s Committee on Public Safety appears to be approaching the finish line.
The committee could finalize changes to a sixth draft at its Sept. 2 meeting and set in motion approval of the ordinance by City Council’s full eight-member body by the end of November.
The four Council members who attended a more-than-two-hour meeting Friday at City Hall couldn’t reach a consensus on just eight of 29 pages in a fifth draft presented by City Attorney Jim Smiertka. At-Large Council Member Carol Wood, the committee’s chair, remains optimistic the group is close to producing the best ordinance it can create.
At the Sept. 2 meeting, the committee is expected to review maps created by the city’s Planning & Neighborhood Development Department showing where current medical marijuana establishments are located and where they would be allowed under the zoning regulations and requirements the proposed ordinance calls for.
“You can’t make zoning so restrictive that you end up making sure that there will be none that exist,” Wood said of medical marijuana establishments.
Committee members have discussed a definition of medical marijuana establishments in a proposed ordinance that would include medical marijuana provisioning centers (also known as a dispensaries), caregiver centers, grower facilities, processor facilities and safety compliance facilities. All of those establishments would be required under the ordinance to obtain a license from the city through the City Clerk’s Office.
According to the ordinance’s fifth draft reviewed Friday, each application for a license 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 $5,000 with an additional $5,000 fee each year. The previous version draft reviewed this month by the committee had the annual license fee and renewal fee each set at $10,000.
Another change in the fifth draft was the requirement for a license applicant to have no less than $25,000 in “immediately available funds.” The fourth draft required $50,000.
At-Large City Council Member Kathie Dunbar objected Friday to any funding requirement an applicant must meet because she believes the market will determine successes and failures.
“If it’s not viable it will close,” Dunbar said of establishments. “No business stays open if it doesn’t make money.”
Another addition was the requirement for an license applicant to show proof an an insurance policy in the amount of at least $1 million for property damage, $1 million for injury to one person and $2 million for injury to two or more people resulting from the same occurrence.
Friday’s meeting was also attended by Third Ward Council Member Adam Hussain and At-Large Council Member Patricia Spitzley. All four Council members expressed concerns about the locations of where medical marijuana establishments could open and whether proposed zoning regulations protect the rights of business owners and neighbors.
Committee members still haven’t finalized whether establishments should be no less than 1,000 feet or 500 feet away from schools, churches, daycare centers, substances abuse prevention services, rehabilitation centers, treatment centers and other related facilities.
If the ordinance is approved, a medical marijuana commission with members appointed by Mayor Virg Bernero 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 provide feedback as non-voting members.
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 Bernero’s medical marijuana commission. City Council members would be allowed under the ordinance to recommend members of the commission for Bernero’s approval.
The city currently doesn’t assess fees to operate establishments and hasn’t pinned down exactly how many operate, though the number appears to be approximately 55. 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. There has been no mention of a cap on the number of licenses the city would allow in any of the proposed ordinance’s five drafts.