Proposed city marijuana ordinance under scrutiny

May 16, 2016:

, Lansing State Journal 9:55 p.m. EDT May 13, 2016

Interim City Attorney F. Jospeh Abood reviews 28 questions, concerns in a meeting that drew about 50 people. Law Department to meet with Police Department next week to discus enforcement issues

LANSING — A medical marijuana ordinance for the city’s licensed patients, caregivers and dispensary owners remains under scrutiny after thorough discussion of a second draft Friday in a public meeting at City Hall.

City Council’s Committee on Public Safety and Interim City Attorney F. Joseph Abood reviewed 28 questions submitted to them for nearly three hours and allowed public comment before a crowd of at least 50 people.

At-Large Council Members Carol Wood and Kathie Dunbar and Third Ward Member Adam Hussain all raised their own questions and will continue the public discussion at the committee’s next meeting at 3:30 p.m. May 27.

Abood said the city’s legal staff has reviewed most, if not all, municipal ordinances about medical marijuana and dispensaries in the state including policies from Detroit, Ann Arbor and Muskegon. The Lansing ordinance’s proposed second draft is 13 pages.

“We’d like to take it off the street, take it out of the shadows and bring it to our business corridors,” Abood said of medical marijuana dispensaries.

The ordinance in its current form defines a medical marijuana “facility” as “a commercial business having a separate or independent postal address where medical marihuana is cultivated and also may be provided.”

Michigan law allows patients to have up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana. If they have not specified a caregiver who provides the marijuana, they can also grow up to 12 plants kept in “an enclosed, locked facility.”

Wood, the committee’s chair, has said she’s hopeful an ordinance can be passed by July 1. The ordinance likely will place a cap on dispensaries that could range from two per each of Lansing’s four wards or up to 20 total, Wood said on Thursday after City Council passed the moratorium on new dispensaries.

Once passed, the ordinance is expected to require all dispensaries to obtain a license from the city that would be renewed annually. It’s unclear what the fee could be. There are several privacy issues for license holders the city will have to address, including which information would be available to the public, Abood said.

Abood also said his staff will meet with the Lansing Police Department next month to study effective ways to enforce an ordinance and protect residents’ rights. He said two Lansing officers recently went to a symposium in Colorado to learn more about those issues.

“Hopefully we’ll have a kicking, screaming, healthy baby when we get through this,” Abood said of the ordinance’s final, approved product.

Council passed the moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries with a 6-0 vote. It went into effect Thursday and will be in place until an ordinance is passed. It’s unclear exactly how many marijuana dispensaries the city has because Lansing doesn’t currently license them.

Medical marijuana patient and Lansing resident Steve Green, 37, who keeps an informal count of dispensaries, told the LSJ on Thursday that he estimates there are 65 in the city.

The Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce applauded the moratorium, noting in a press release that a recent survey of chamber members in the city ”showed business owners overwhelmingly expressing concerns regarding the lack of proper regulations.”

Eric Lacy is a reporter for the Lansing State Journal. Contact him at 517-377-1206 or elacy@lsj.com. Follow him on Twitter @EricLacy.

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