October 16, 2016- East Lansing becomes one of the first cities in Michigan to decriminalize marijuana use for those over 21. While that had no effect on state law at the time, it established East Lansing as one of the marijuana policy leaders in Michigan. That being said, East Lansing’s current issue is troubling, the city council has been debating for months over the provisioning center problem.
After the October 30th downvote of a proposed ordinance to allow medical marijuana provisioning centers in East Lansing, the City Council was finally able to pass an ordinance on November 7th. Here are the key
special use standards for provisioning centers:
East Lansing Mayor Mark Meadows said, “It is important for this to pass now because it provides us with a grandfather provision that we can defend as we go forward. I’m not sure what the rules are going to look like for recreational marijuana, but we have something in place this way”.
One of the most unique aspects of the ordinance is prohibiting the sale of smokable and vapable medical marijuana products. This limits the product selection to medical edibles, oil-based tinctures, and topical skin products. City Councilor Shanna Draheim felt this was too restrictive on businesses, as most of the medical marijuana market share comes from smokable products. Furthermore, many experts and card holding citizens identified the concern that different patients react better to different medical forms. Draheim noted, “I think this is between a patient and doctor”.
Furthermore, the section stating provisioning centers may not make a specific district or neighborhood associated with marijuana usage and trade is incredibly ambiguous. Immediately when the first provisioning center opens, that area will be associated with medical marijuana and there is simply no way to avoid that. While the section doesn’t denote whether the City has the power to close or fine a dispensary for violation of this statute, punishment of that nature could easily result in lawsuits against the city.
Another issue with the ordinance lies in the way they created the overlay districts. The areas in which provisioning centers will be allowed are minuscule when compared to other districts, which creates a small number of possible locations.
Despite these issues with the ordinance, the section mandating the donation to a local charity is respectable. Either 1% of total net profits or $5000 (whichever is larger) must be donated to a charity that is focused on improving lives of locals or the environment; which will push positive change in the East Lansing community. Furthermore, this standard may help those against medical marijuana accept the newfound industry in their city.
East Lansing’s first medical marijuana ordinance went into effect on December 20, 2017. It creates a framework for processing facilities, grow houses, secure transporters and safety compliance labs. Interestingly, the city has not received a single license application in the near year they have been accepting applications. Despite the lack of applications, the ordinance has good policy and regulations. Here are a few key notes:
East Lansing has uncommon characteristics that are halting progress in the medical marijuana industry. The college campus atmosphere is most likely what is fueling the differences on the City council. There are concerns with unintended side effects among the over 50,000 students. Additionally, the unusually large number of liquor stores (again, college town) creates zoning issues for those trying to open a dispensary because of the 1000 foot buffer between medical marijuana facilities and liquor stores.
The lack of provisioning centers may be what is stopping business owners from opening other facility types in East Lansing, as the system isn’t complete. A system without provisioning centers destroys the possibility for money to be made, but forward progress has finally been made.