Nov. 18 2015 11:45 AM

Southsiders demand city crack down on dispensaries

With an explosion of new pot shops opening across south Lansing’s large commercial corridors, residents are demanding city officials take action to curb the businesses.

“We really want to make sure that we are controlling the numbers and making sure that these are safe establishments for people to get their medicine in,” Elaine Wolmboldt, facilitator for the community organization Rejuvenate South Lansing, said. “We don’t want south Lansing to become the epicenter of where all the shops are.”

There are more than 25 dispensaries between I496 and I96 on thes outh side, according to medical-marijuana expert Steve Green, who writes the Green Report for City Pulse biweekly.

Wolmboldt said she has circulated petitions that will be submitted to the City Council Monday. They ask the city to enforce the 2011 dispensary licensing law or come with a new ordinance to regulate them.

The Council approved regulations shortly before the state Appeals court ruled them illegal. As a result of the court ruling, which was upheld by the state Supreme court, Lansing’s city attorney issued a letter saying the dispensaries were illegal.

“Because this ruling renders illegal the activities occurring at most, if not all, medical marihuana establishments, my office has advised the City Clerk not to issue any licenses for the operation of medical marihuana establishments at this time,” Brigham Smith, then the city attorney, wrote. “Without a license, you are operating illegally under local law.”

City Clerk Chris Swope said Tuesday that he has not issued any licenses since he received the letter. On Oct. 6, 2011, Smith sent Swope another letter recommending that he refund in full any fees he had collected at that point. Smith noted a second ruling by the Court of Appeals that prohibited facilities from operating for the benefit of caregivers as well as the earlier decision which prohibited patient to patient programs.

With these letters the issue seemed resolved. “Together they substantially diminish and may effectively eliminate the economic feasibility — and, indeed, legality — of operations engaged in the nonresidential growing and distribution of medical marihuana,” Smith wrote.

The state legislature is working on a bill to legalize dispensaries. It passed the House overwhelmingly and has the support in the State of Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the measure. It appears likely to be approved before the end of the year.