Feb. 15 2017 12:39 AM

Council approves new law regulating home pot growing

In an action that will have ramifications for home growers of medical marijuana, the Lansing City Council has approved an ordinance regulating odor and electrical use.

The ordinance, which was passed Monday, 7-0, requires operators of home businesses to register and submit their property for inspection if it is generating fumes or using more than 3,500 kilowatt hours of electricity a month, or both.

City officials said the proliferation of home-grow operations by patient caregivers has resulted in an increase in electrical-related safety concerns in neighborhoods.

City Attorney James Smiertka said Monday night that while the ordinance requires those using more than 3,500 kilowatt hours of electricity a month to register, he does not expect code and zoning officials to crack down on residential properties by accessing records maintained by the Lansing Board of Water & Light.

“Enforcement isn't going to be like anyone going to the Board getting usage,” he said in an interview. Rather, it “is going to be complaint driven maybe because of odors or maybe because of lights.”

The issue came up in part because of concerns expressed by neighbors about odors and heavy traffic coming to and from residences involved in growing medical marijuana. But Councilwoman Carol Wood said it was not about marijuana specifically.

“It's not whether you're going 72 plants or you're not going 72 plants or whether you're grooming 100 dogs or you are grooming two dogs,” Wood said. “The issue is whether there is an issue that could result in something that could end up in a fire.”

The ordinance covers “home occupation” that “exceeds 3500 KWH per month, or where the home occupation emits gases, fumes, smoke, or odors outside of the building or structure and across the building or structure’s property line, presents a danger of fire or explosion or otherwise creates a public nuisance.”

Those subject to the ordinance would be required to submit to an annual inspection by code compliance officers and register the property as a business. The name of the person and the address of the property are the only information that would be made public under the ordinance. Officials said this was necessary to protect the privacy of small business owners. It would also prevent the city from running afoul of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act by creating a public list of patient caregivers.

Randy Hannan, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero’s chief of staff, said the administration supported the ordinance. He said the administration did not have information on how many residential properties in the city were exceeding the 3,500-kilowatt-hour threshold. He said the Lansing Fire Department could definitively connect two recent fires with electrical overuse in a residential property, and that was enough evidence.

“It's not about how many houses are using the power,” he said, “it's about mitigating risks.”

But Bernero made it clear in a press release Tuesday hailing the the measure that the ordinance was about regulating home marijuana growth in the city’s residential areas.

“We know that it is legal under state law for medical marijuana patients and caregivers to grow marijuana in their home,” the mayor said in the release, “but this activity must be done in a safe manner that does not create a nuisance or put their neighbors in harm’s way.”