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Wednesday, December 15,2010

The rush

A look at the 46 new medical marijuana businesses that established themselves with the city to avoid being blocked by a moratorium

by Andy Balaskovitz
Mid-American Compassionate Research is a medical marijuana establishment newly registered with the city of Lansing. It says so in Chapter 876 of Lansing’s Codified Ordinances, which is the moratorium on any new medical marijuana businesses.

Mid-American is listed in that ordinance because its owner registered in time to be grandfathered in at 107 S. Washington Square.


However, you won’t find neon pot leaf signs or even a logo at that address. Instead, you’ll find the downtown Pita Pit restaurant.


“Is there a medical marijuana business in here?” I ask Pita Pit manager Stacy Szok. She had no idea.


“This is the Pita Pit,” she said. “We sell pitas. This isn’t anything to do with medical marijuana.”


Was this a typo? After investigating, Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope said Mid- American is operating in the basement and second floor.


“The basement? We use that for storage and office space,” Szok said, who has been managing at Pita Pit for three months. She added that the second floor is apartment space with a different address.


“That is so weird to me,” she said. “Maybe the city wrote it down wrong.”


This and 45 other businesses needed to register themselves with the city, along with 17 already existing establishments, before a six-month-plus moratorium took effect last week while the City Council decides on regulations.


Of the 46 new businesses, 24 are actually open and operating, or close to it. Ten are empty office spaces. And 12 are perplexing either for their location or circumstance.


“We took it from them if they are operating,” Swope said. “There will probably be some narrowing of the list.”


He expects that vetting to take place over the course of a few weeks. But even so, what does it mean that these shops claim to be operating, though their storefronts tell a different story?


City Attorney Brig Smith, when asked what the definition of “operating” was in the ordinance, said “in the process of operating” counts. He added that the language was not overly scrutinized, as it is a temporary ordinance.


“The term means what it says and says what it means,” he said.


“My office’s resources will not be spent fly specking a temporary ordinance, but crafting a permanent one,” he said referring to a regulation ordinance, not a permanent moratorium.


Smith said he anticipates a verification process to ensure these businesses are legitimate and operational.


City Pulse visited all 46 addresses over the course of Sunday and Monday. A few other perplexing cases came up.


Robert Ortega, who leases business space at 509 E. Grand River Ave. in Old Town, was surprised to find out a medical marijuana business is listed at his property. “Mr. Nice Guy” claims to operate out of the space shared by lawyers across the street from the old Temple Club.


“He was trying to rent the space here, but didn’t sign the lease and left,” Ortega said. This was last week. “He tried, but it didn’t work out.”


Confused, Ortega is still sure no medical marijuana businesses are leasing from him.


Two of the bakeries listed with the city are in residential neighborhoods. THC Bakery and Café, 909 Sparrow Ave., is a well-maintained brick house near Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and the Shabazz Academy in south Lansing.


Baker’s Delight, 4411 Chadburne Drive, is in the middle of the Woodside Meadows town home complex near Waverly and Jolly roads. A friend said the owner, Eric, would be back from Florida in a week.


A little farther east down Jolly takes you to 4924 Hughes St., which is the listing for Caregiver Correct. This is a small, mortgage-foreclosed home that has been unoccupied since Sept. 10.


Then there are the three businesses listed at 4723 Bristol St. in south Lansing near Reo Elementary School and the old Sankofa Academy. This address, for Amsterdam Herbal Connection, Medical Herbal Suppliers and Apothercory Herbal Genetics, is one of nine residences in a small housing complex set back from Bristol Street about 50 yards. No one was available for comment.


Green Harvest Releaf Clinic, 409 E. Grand River Ave., is listed on the vacant lot between Hydroworld and Speedway gas station in Old Town. Preuss Pets, across the street, uses the area for excess parking.


What does all of this mean, if the intent of a moratorium was to prevent a slew of new businesses from opening unregulated?


City Council Vice President Kathie Dunbar, who missed the vote on the moratorium and is still against it, said the plan to put a stop on these businesses in order to control the number of them “totally backfired.”


“That was the slowest, longest 10 months to come up with a solution,” she said. “Had we put in legislation, we wouldn’t need a moratorium. And now what? Forty-six in one week?” Check out the list of open medical marijuana businesses in Lansing at here.

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