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Wednesday, July 13,2011

Unsettling start

Was a medical marijuana dispensary opponent’s business the target of a July 3 shooting on Lansing’s east side? Meanwhile, license applications start pouring in.

by Andy Balaskovitz
What appear to be two bullet holes
decorate a second-floor window panel of a Neogen laboratory at 1614 E.
Kalamazoo St., across the road from the Allen Neighborhood Center on
Lansing’s east side.

It’s merely speculation at this point,
but could it be that one of the leading opponents of the proliferation
of medical marijuana dispensaries — Jim Herbert, chairman and CEO of
Neogen — had his business targeted by angry medical marijuana activists?
Has the medical marijuana debate gotten so heated in Lansing that
differences are being expressed with gunfire? 


Herbert and like-minded neighborhood
advocates, like director of the Allen Neighborhood Center Joan Nelson,
suggest he is a target. The Lansing Police Department said it’s too
early to tell and the shooting is under investigation.


One neighbor claims to have heard the
shooting at about 3:15 a.m. on July 3. The shooting was reported to LPD
three days later by a Neogen facilities manager, LPD Lt. Noel Garcia
said in an e-mail. No suspect has been identified. Garcia added that
it’s too early tell if there was a motive for the shooting.


“There is no information at this time to
relate this matter to medical marijuana,” he wrote. “The motive in this
matter has not been established as of yet.”


Herbert has spoken publicly and strongly
before the City Council and elsewhere against medical marijuana
dispensaries, particularly the 11 on Michigan Avenue. Herbert could not
be reached for comment Tuesday.


In a July 8 e-mail to the City Council, Herbert wrote of the July 3 incident:


“Earlier this week someone fired three
bullets into the windows of one of our laboratories in our building on
Kalamazoo in what appears to have been a drive by shooting. Fortunately
no one was in that laboratory at the time. Even though we’ve never been
victim of an instance like this in the past, is it purely coincidental
that my name and the name of the company have been associated with the
marijuana situation?”


Willie James, who lives on the 300 block
of Allen Street near the Neogen facility, awoke to gunfire around 3:15
a.m. on July 3, he said Tuesday.


“They unloaded gun fire in the street, turned around in my driveway and backed up down the street,” he said.


James said his wife picked up seven
bullet casings in the middle of Allen Street later that morning and gave
them to a neighbor. The neighbor could not be contacted for comment
Tuesday.


James said he was unable to identify the
make, model or color of the car. He was also unsure of why the shooting
took place or where the shots were directed.


Nelson, of the Allen Neighborhood Center,
said Tuesday: “I think there’s a good possibility, actually” that the
shots were “blowback” from Herbert’s views on medical marijuana.


“We’ve maintained that the clustering of
dispensaries and the high traffic of customers has redialed behavior on
and around the avenue,” she said.


Rick Kibbey, who has spoken on behalf of
the Allen Neighborhood Center recently regarding medical marijuana,
touched on the bullet holes at Monday’s City Council meeting.


“There was a volley of shots fired into
(Neogen) Sunday. They pulled up across the street, stood next to the car
and fired. There’s evidence,” he said. “Is this how we’re handling
policy differences in the city now?”


In an interview Tuesday, Kibbey admitted
his account of the incident is “third-hand,” but that it’s “absolutely
clear to me” the shots were in retaliation to Herbert’s position on
dispensaries. “Why else would you shoot at this particular building out
of all the other properties in the city of Lansing?”




Settling in


Meanwhile, the city clerk has received 43
applications for medical marijuana dispensaries as of Tuesday
afternoon. The City Council voted Monday to cap the number at 48. 


Of the 43 that filed for applications
since the Council passed an ordinance regulating dispensaries on June
28, six are for businesses that were not grandfathered in during the
city’s six-month moratorium. Those are: Hashish Wellness Center, 5812 S.
Cedar St.; Mid-America Compassionate Research, 101 S. Washington Square
Suite 200 downtown; Natural Medicine Center, 5325 S. Cedar St.; T &
S Consulting, 1421 Rensen St.; Urban Garden Tree, 736 N. Larch St.; and
Vets Meds, no address given.


Information from the City Clerk’s Office shows 11 addresses that were grandfathered in during the moratorium have not yet filed. 


On Michigan Avenue, Safe Harbor
Alternative Medicine is a new dispensary taking the place of Capitol
City Compassion Club at 2010 E. Michigan Ave., an address that was
grandfathered in during the moratorium.


City Clerk Chris Swope said his
“understanding” is that Safe Harbor will be included in the businesses
that are grandfathered in because it’s in the same location.


“They’ll most likely be considered under
the grandfathering,” he said. “My understanding is that we’ll consider
them as grandfathered because it was really based on the location.”


The application deadline for
grandfathered businesses was July 9, but new-business applicants need
only to apply 30 days before opening, Swope said.


City Attorney Brig Smith said Monday
during the City Council’s meeting that the city will go through
applications to make sure they meet all of the requirements in the new
ordinance.


“Logistically, we’re in the meat of it,” he said.

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