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Monday, March 18,2013

Kids in the Hall

Cannabis, tributes and a bus plan

by Andy Balaskovitz
Tuesday, April 11 — At its Monday meeting, the Lansing City Council held a public hearing on what businesses that can operate during the medical marijuana dispensary moratorium, unanimously approved eight tributes and heard an update from the Capital Area Transportation Authority on a study for a new bus route connecting downtown Lansing and Meridian Mall.

The Council is revising the city’s medical marijuana moratorium to update the list of dispensaries grandfathered in while the city drafts a permanent regulation ordinance. A list of 67 businesses narrowed to 40 after the city discovered some were in residential zones and some did not respond to mailings requesting more information of them.

However, City Pulse discovered that in the city’s effort to “clean up” the moratorium, four businesses were operating that aren’t on the city’s revised list: S S Collectives at 1242 E. Grand River Ave.; Michigan Medical Marijuana Club at 6046 S. Cedar St., Relief Choices of Lansing at 2617 E. Michigan Ave.; and Grand River Alternative Medicine Services (GRAMS) at 711 E. Grand River Ave.

During the public hearing, no representatives from these four businesses came forward asking to be included on the new list. Two men spoke during the public hearing — one on legalizing cannabis entirely, the other telling Council to hurry up on a regulation ordinance.

Robert Ovalle, who comments regularly when medical marijuana is on the Council’s agenda, juxtaposed the widespread use of hemp in pre-World War II America and John Sinclair’s arrest in the early 1970s for possessing two joints in Ann Arbor.

“In 1972 I was 15 years old when John Sinclair served two to 10 years for two joints,” Ovalle said.

Council regular John Pollard talked about how the Council has spent four months cleaning up a temporary ordinance and now has less than three to finish drafting regulation standards, as the moratorium ends July 1.  

“My problem is how long we’re dragging our heels on something that was approved by voters in 2008. People are entitled to get their hands on their meds,” he said.

“While we’re sitting here goofing around money is out there going up in smoke,” Pollard said, referring to the idea that the city could be collecting licensing and permit fees by now.

The revised draft was sent back to the Public Safety Committee. The  Council is scheduled to vote on the revised list at its next meeting.

In transportation news, CATA announced that the first phase of a Michigan/Grand River avenues transportation study is complete.

Jason Ball, a systems planner for CATA, said the first phase identified a “bus rapid transit” route as the most feasible possibility for connecting Meridian Mall and downtown Lansing because it “meets the needs of the corridor” and is “most cost effective.”

CATA’s No. 1 route could be improved, he said, with a faster bus line that moves down the middle of the corridor rather than on the outer lanes. But construction is still a long way off and not guaranteed — the project hinges largely on federal grant funding.

Sandy Dragoo, executive director of CATA, said getting the money together for capital investments — which is highly competitive — is the next challenge.

“Going into the next phase, the federal funding piece is a very tough piece,” she said. “It will be several months before we even know if it will go into the next phase.”

In other news, the first of eight tributes approved by the Council set Friday as A. Philip Randolph Day for an instrumental figure in the Civil Rights movement who helped Martin Luther King Jr. lead the March on Washington in 1964. Randolph was born April 15, 1889, in Florida.

The second tribute recognized April as Child Abuse Prevention Month and today as Child Abuse Prevention Day.

Six tributes recognized award recipients from the 29th annual Founders’ Day Awards, hosted by the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs. Robin Smith was awarded the Sojourner Truth Award for promoting diversity in education; Linda Sims won the Community Service Award for starting her own community service coordination business after working for more than 20 years at the state; James Jackson won the Frederick Douglass Award as a syndicated columnist and author; Stacy Lewis won the Business Excellence Award for starting her own State Farm Insurance Co. branch in Lansing; Raynida Haynes won the Youth on the Move Award for her participation in extracurricular activities at Sexton High School and Paradise Maranatha Baptist Church; and Jayson Howell also won a Youth on the Move Award for his volunteer hours at Friendship Baptist Church

In budget news, Fourth Ward Councilwoman Jessica Yorko announced two public budget hearings for this week. The first is 6:30 to 8:30 at the Southside Community Center, 5815 Wise Road. The second is Thursday at the same time at Pattengill Middle School, 616 Marshall St.

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