Aug. 10 2016 11:18 AM

Medpot shops would close if city ordinance passes

Lansing is considering a medical marijuana ordinance so sweeping in scope, so punitive in intent that it threatens to destroy the caregiver businesses that have found refuge in the city.

The proposed ordinance, now in its fourth draft, imposes a body of rules and regulations unlike any applied to other businesses in Lansing. The financial requirements alone are crushing — $65,000 in fees just to win approval. The city wants business plans, plans for training employees and educating patients, details on each piece of security, limits on locations, signs and advertising, etc.

The real victims are people suffering from cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, ALS and other debilitating illnesses. With fewer providers, they will pay more for a less robust selection of marijuana-based pain relievers.

The rules and regulations are detailed in a 27-page document that will require City Council approval. Nowhere does it acknowledge medical marijuana's benefits, the relief it provides for dozens of illnesses and conditions, or that Michigan voters — despite reactionary opposition by government — want it to be available.

City Attorney Jim Smiertka expects the ordinance, which he inherited when he took the job in June, to be modified in coming weeks and said that it has been shaped by committees, hearings and suggestions from “interested parties.” He stressed that the latest draft was not a medical marijuana policy endorsed by the Bernero administration. Rather, as city attorney, he was serving up a document for discussion and alteration.

Certainly, reading the ordinance suggests that it is the product of politics and business opportunity for well financed entrepreneurs — that is, “interested parties.”

The city's medical marijuana business is weighted to southside neighborhoods, operating in inexpensive, previously vacant storefronts along Pennsylvania Avenue, Cedar Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. A get-tough approach to medical marijuana works politically for the mayor and some Council members; it calms the angst in the city's struggling neighborhoods.

But the steep financial cost required to operate a medical marijuana establishment would eliminate small players from the market. What would remain are superstores, servicing the medical market now and poised to move onto mainstream sales when Michigan eventually and inevitably legalizes marijuana.

Meanwhile the ordinance application is a minefield for existing and future marijuana businesses. Requirements must include:

COPIES OF ACTUAL BANK STATEMENTS, SHOWING THAT THE APPLICANT HAS LIQUID FUNDS IN THE APPLICANT'S NAME IN THE AMOUNT NEEDED TO COMPLETE THE MEDICAL MARIHUANA ESTABLISHMENT, BUT IN NO EVENT, LESS THAN FIFTY THOUSAND ($50,000) DOLLARS IN IMMEDIATELY AVAILABLE FUNDS.”

This provision alone will eliminate dozens of operators. Caregivers are limited to five patients, and many are, well, caregivers, who don't seek profit from the suffering of the sick. If the $50,000 weren't enough, applicants need another $15,000 for other city fees, which could be lowered after more analysis, Smiertka said. Still, compliance will require a significant investment. And a license is good for just one year. What a risk!

A RESUME THAT INCLUDES WHETHER THE INDIVIDUAL HAS ANY RELEVANT EXPERIENCE WITH MEDICAL MARIHUANA OR A RELATED INDUSTRY.

You've got to love this one. The marijuana industry violates federal law, has been suppressed in every way possible by the state, and the city wants the check the applicant’s drug industry credentials.

A CURRENT ORGANIZATION CHART THAT INCLUDES POSITION DESCRIPTIONS AND THE NAMES OF EACH PERSON HOLDING EACH POSITION.

This can be put together by a dispensary's Human Resources Department, added to the employees handbook and packaged with its mission statement.

AN ESTIMATE OF THE NUMBER AND TYPE OF JOBS THAT THE MEDICAL MARIHUANA ESTABLISHMENT IS EXPECTED TO CREATE, THE AMOUNT AND TYPE OF COMPENSATION EXPECTED TO BE PAID FOR SUCH JOBS, AND THE PROJECTED ANNUAL BUDGET AND REVENUE OF The MEDICAL MARIHUANA ESTABLISHMENT.

This provision alone ought to stir the ire of the Small Business Association of Michigan and chambers of commerce. Talk about intrusive. It's just another hurdle aimed at crippling the medical marijuana industry or ensuring that only large, well financed and well connected entities can succeed.

APPICANT WILL PROVIDE ... A LOCATION AREA MAP OF THE MEDICAL MARIHUANA ESTABLISHMENT AND SURROUNDING AREA THAT IDENTIFIES THE RELATIVE LOCATIONS AND THE DISTANCES (CLOSEST PROPERTY LINE TO THE SUBJECT ESTABLISHMENT'S PROPERTY LINE) TO THE SUBJECT MEDICAL MARIHUANA ESTABLISHMENT TO THE CLOSEST REAL PROPERTY COMPRISING A PUBLIC OR PRIVATE ELEMENTARY, VOCATIONAL OR SECONDARY SCHOOL; OR ANOTHER LICENSED MEDICAL
MARIHUANA ESTABLISHMENT.

And so it goes.

The ordinance would require educational initiatives for patients and descriptions of security plans with details on each piece of security equipment. There's a mandate that each establishment have a security guard present during business hours.

Licensees must demonstrate that they “engaged in positive community outreach” and determine whether their business will “negatively impact the character and aesthetics of the neighborhood and community.”

The ordinance establishes a new city commission to weigh the merits of those seeking medical marijuana licenses. And meeting the proposed standards is just subjective enough to invite political meddling. In Lansing? From City Hall? How could that happen?

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