Dec. 14 2017 09:57 AM

Lansing, East Lansing, Windsor Twp. only localities to opt into state medical marijuana licensing


Lansing, East Lansing, Windsor Twp. only localities to opt into state medical marijuana licensing

To allow or not to allow — that is the question for communities across Michigan when it comes to medical marijuana facilities. Many municipalities in the greater Lansing area are taking the wait-and-see approach to regulating and licensing the facilities in their boundaries.

Without laws expressly allowing marijuana businesses, the state won’t issue licenses for their operation in those boundaries. The law will also result in cost-sharing between the state and municipalities that opt into the law and allow the businesses to operate.

Some municipalities have planned changes in policy or even acted on the issue since the release of emergency state rules last Monday, while others are still waiting to see how the situation plays out.

During a four-hour meeting on Dec. 5, East Lansing City Council voted 4-1 to allow all medical marijuana facility types except provisioning centers to operate within city limits. Facilities in East Lansing must be 1,000 feet from any school or child care center and must be located within select business districts, office industrial park zones or manufacturing zones.

Councilwoman Ruth Beier was the lone vote against the ordinance. During the meeting, Beier repeatedly moved to heighten the restrictions outlined in the ordinance, such as increasing the required distance between medical marijuana facilities and schools and requiring facilities to be 1,000 feet from residential areas. Each time, those motions failed or were withdrawn.

Despite her opposition, Beier said she has “no problem” with allowing provisioning centers to operate in East Lansing. That issue will be discussed at the council meeting on Tuesday, when a vote will be taken on a second ordinance that would solely regulate provisioning centers in the city.

Beier said she had no doubt provisioning centers will be allowed. Mayor Mark Meadows has previously made similar statements.

Most smaller communities surrounding Lansing and East Lansing have no ordinance on the books allowing medical marijuana facilities. The state’s requirement of an authorizing ordinance makes inaction on the matter equivalent to a ban.

Representatives from Williamstown, Delta and Lansing townships could not be reached for comment. However, in previous interviews Dion’trae Hayes, supervisor of Lansing Township, said that municipality was taking a wait-and-see approach. In Delta Township, Supervisor Ken Fletcher said the township, at the urging of law enforcement, had banned marijuana operations within its boundaries and was “unlikely” to revisit that ban anytime soon.

For Delhi Township, the current lack of an authorizing ordinance shouldn’t be interpreted as a permanent prohibition, according to Tracy Miller, the township’s director of community development. Delhi Township does have a ban on provisioning centers — referred to by the township as dispensaries — but township ordinances do not outline the regulation of the other facility types.

Miller said there is a potential that the township will change its position in the coming months.

“I don’t think that there’s an absolute position against these businesses at all at this point,” Miller said.

Miller said she has not reviewed the state’s emergency rules under the Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act, released on Dec. 4 after a significant delay. There hasn’t been much discussion about whether to make a decision now or wait for the release of permanent state rules, which must be unveiled by mid-2018.

“My feeling is we wouldn’t do anything until there were permanent rules, maybe, but we really haven’t had any conversation about that,” Miller said.

The city of Williamston is similarly waiting to make a decision, according to City Manager Alan Dolley. Instead of waiting for the release of permanent rules, however, its hesitancy is due to a desire to see what other municipalities in the region decide to do.

“Williamston is not passing any ordinances to allow medical marijuana businesses inside city limits,” Dolley said. “We’re taking a wait-and-see approach to see how other communities that are looking at it or participating handle things.”

Given the current landscape, that “wait and see approach” likely won’t lead to much action any time soon. Few communities in the Lansing metro area have passed an ordinance that either authorizes or prohibits marijuana facilities in 2017, with East Lansing, Lansing and Windsor Township being a few notable exceptions.

Lansing approved an ordinance in September authorizing all facilities and a maximum of 25 provisioning centers, while Windsor Township passed a law allowing a limited amount of all facility types except provisioning centers, which are prohibited.

A planned development in Windsor Township, dubbed Harvest Park, will turn 130 acres of land into a marijuana industrial park housing growers, processors, testers and transporters. Harvest Park is reportedly expected to open in spring 2018.

Bath, DeWitt, and Meridian townships all have not issued any authorizing ordinances, and only Bath appears to be open to changing that stance right now. Representatives from DeWitt and Meridian townships said they will likely wait until 2018 to take further action on the issue.

Given its proximity to East Lansing, as well as the location of the Chandler Crossings student housing complex within its borders, Bath Township’s student population is somewhat unique compared to the other, mostly rural townships surrounding Lansing.

However, students have largely ignored the township’s attempts to gauge their views on most other projects, planning director Brian Shorkey said, leading him to believe they won’t have much influence over medical marijuana regulations, either.

“We’ve done a couple surveys since I started here a year and a half ago on different project plans and township plans, and we have very little feedback in general from the student community in Chandler Crossings,” Shorkey said. “If they want to have an impact, they can come and talk to us about it.”