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Monday, March 18,2013

Neighborhoods and dispensary owners

Two sides are apparent in the process of adopting medical marijuana dispensary regulations. A public hearing on the draft ordinance is scheduled for Monday night.

by Andy Balaskovitz
Friday, June 17 — Who has been giving more input to Lansing City Council members about regulating the city’s medical marijuana dispensaries? Neighborhood groups or dispensary owners?

That question loomed over room 213 of Foster Community Center Thursday night, which brought in more comment from the neighborhood side than what has surfaced at past City Council Public Safety Committee meetings.

On Monday, the full Lansing City Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the proposed medical marijuana dispensary ordinance.

As 29 people spoke at Thursday’s meeting, it became apparent neighborhood groups want to tighten regulations of the proposed ordinance, while dispensary owners and advocates either like it the way it is or want it loosened. Both sides have 10 days to voice their concerns before the Council votes on the ordinance on June 27.

Joan Nelson, director of the Allen Neighborhood Center on Lansing’s east side, said there is “a whole lot in the draft ordinance not addressed” as it relates to neighborhood groups, non-medical marijuana business owners and faith-based organizations.

Nelson, who spoke for the Coalition for a Closer Look at the Medical Marihuana Dispensary Ordinance, suggested capping the number of dispensaries at 10 “distributed evenly throughout the city.”

There are 47 dispensary addresses grandfathered in the city’s moratorium ordinance, and more than 40 of those are operating businesses.

Nelson said after the meeting that the organization is not advocating putting any dispensaries out of business. However, the group proposes that no new ones could open until the city had fewer than 10, she explained.

The draft ordinance does not limit the number of dispensaries. It does limit them to one commercially zoned district (F-1) that includes much of Michigan Avenue, areas of Old Town and REO Town — but not downtown — and also industrially zoned areas.

“We are concerned about (allowing them in) F-1. This is the designation for a number of nascent commercial revitalization centers,” Nelson said, referring to Michigan Avenue, REO Town, Old Town and Saginaw Street. These areas are “inappropriate for dispensaries,” according to a list of requests drafted by the coalition.

The coalition also is against grandfathering businesses that don’t comply with the proposed zoning and buffering requirements. The draft ordinance would require businesses to be at least 1,000 feet from each other and from schools, churches, child development centers and substance abuse treatment centers. Nelson added: “We hope you add hospitals, parks, pools and neighborhood centers (to the buffering list).”

“We also believe all currently operating dispensaries need to be in compliance within 90 days,” Nelson said.

Nancy Mahlow, president of the Eastside Neighborhood Organization, which she said includes 23 neighborhoods in its boundaries, said “full criminal background checks” on applicants should be required for “dispensary owners, operators and employees, lifelong for all felonies.”

The draft ordinance says applicants and each “stakeholder” of the applicant — defined as “a manager or a member” of a limited liability company and “an officer, director, member, or shareholder” of a corporation — must not have been convicted of a felony involving controlled substances within the past seven years.

The proposed ordinance also allows consumption on-site of businesses “for instructional purposes” only.

“There should be no consumption on site,” Mahlow said.

Mahlow thanked the committee members — Councilwomen Carol Wood, A’Lynne Robinson and Tina Houghton — for holding the meeting at 6 p.m., allowing more people to voice their concerns.

Jody Washington, a 1st Ward Lansing City Council candidate who is president of the East Village Neighborhood Association and treasurer of the Eastside Neighborhood Organization, said all packages and transactions at dispensaries should be tracked with “alpha-numeric identifiers” — information on who grew the marijuana and for whom.

But dispensary owners seem to like the ordinance the way it’s drafted or want to see it loosened.

Roberto Castillo, who owns Cannabuzz at 6026 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, said: “I don’t think this plan reflects 67 percent of what voters said.”

Castillo wants to see the restrictive operating hours eliminated — the ordinance only allows businesses to operate between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. — and for the allowed zones to be expanded.

Brant Johnson, who is on the board of the Greater Lansing Medical Marijuana Business Association, called the draft a “comprehensive and fair ordinance.”

In other scheduled City Council business Monday, the Council will consider a resolution paying tribute to Leanna Green. Green, who is referred to by some as “Mama Green,” was 87 and a lifelong member of Union Missionary Baptist Church.


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