Still Hazy The State of Medical Marijuana in Lansing

One of the issues we have been following closely at the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce (LRCC) is the Lansing City Council’s work to adopt an updated medical marijuana licensing and zoning ordinance. Since the passage of the 2008 voter approved law that allows marijuana use for medical purposes, a grey area has formed in regard to how to regulate so called provisioning centers — which are essentially storefronts from where medical marijuana is sold. It became even more complicated in 2013 when the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that patient-to-patient sales were not protected under the law. A number of local municipalities moved to close down provisioning centers due to that ruling, a handful of cities, including Lansing, did not.

Last year, there was an overwhelming concern regarding the lack of proper regulation and licensing of medical marijuana provisioning centers throughout the city. LRCC called on the City of Lansing to implement a moratorium on any new medical marijuana provisioning centers. The Chamber, along with many other community leaders felt the moratorium would allow the state legislature sufficient time to work on legislation and the Lansing City Council to update the medical marijuana ordinance and hopefully craft a more common-sense approach to the regulation of medical marijuana.

City of Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero did call for the moratorium, the state legislature passed new state regulations and the Lansing City Council is working to update the local ordinance to ensure it complies with the new state law.

The laws passed by the legislature allow for local municipalities to determine where a grower or dispensary may operate through zoning and licensing. In 2016, the Lansing City Council discussion was primarily focused on how to properly regulate provisioning centers commercially. However, throughout their process, one particular issue that has become an increasing concern is homegrown operations throughout Lansing’s neighborhoods, including rental properties.

The 2008 voter-approved law requires medical marijuana plants be kept in an “enclosed, locked facility” which means a closet, room or other comparable, stationary and fully enclosed area. This part of the law has essentially allowed individuals to use their homes as a grow operation.

In addition to neighborhood groups filing complaints about home-based operations, the Chamber has heard from a number of our members in the real estate community who have concerns regarding homegrown operations that may hurt home sales and possibly devalue properties in neighborhoods.

We have already seen an effort to address home-based medical marijuana grow facilities in Lansing when Mayor Bernero proposed a grower facilities ordinance. The proposed ordinance would track homes’ that generate higher than average residential electrical usage. Additionally, the ordinance would mandate that those homegrown operations comply with code compliance to correct hazard conditions within the home and comply with the city’s public nuisance ordinance, which could include odor, smoke fumes or gasses.

The legislature has already begun to address issues with homegrown operations, such as the passage of Senate Bill 72 sponsored by State Senator Rick Jones, which would allow landlords to prohibit tenants from smoking and growing medical marijuana. Jones became concerned when two rental homes in his district were damaged after they were “turned into greenhouses to grow marijuana, without permission.”

Nonetheless, this issue will be one of the top priorities for the Lansing City Council in 2017 and one that needs to be addressed. We suggest not reinventing the wheel, and look to other cities and states for best practices when it comes to addressing and implementing regulations for medical marijuana provisioning centers or homegrown operations. Let’s adopt an ordinance that protects patients, our neighborhoods, property values, public safety and maintains the integrity of our community.

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