When I was assigned the task of selecting the most qualified 25 medical marijuana provisioning centers (a.k.a. dispensaries) by the City Council in fall 2017, I stated that my goal is for this process is to be as fair and efficient as possible. We want centers that protect the public health, safety and welfare of the residents of the city using the criteria set forth in the ordinance. I have not wavered in that goal.

I have taken many steps to provide opportunities for the public to understand the medical marijuana application and approval process within Michigan and city of Lansing laws’ limitations.

Anyone can see the list of applicants, addresses of the proposed sites and the application type at the website, www.lansingmi.gov/marijuana.

My office has been updating the list as new applications come in.

Since the passage of the ordinance, I have hosted a public meeting and posted the selection criteria for the provisioning center selection process at lansingmi.gov/marijuana so that the public and applicants can see how these valuable licenses will be distributed. The criteria are still available for review.

All applicants, their stakeholders and employees must pass a background check completed by the Lansing Police Department. All applicants are subject to a building plan review by the Economic Development and Planning Department and the Fire Department. Applicants and their stakeholders must have paid all city taxes as verified by the city treasurer. Applicants must have proper insurance protecting the city against liability as well as other legal documents which are reviewed by the Law Department as required by city ordinance. Since these are new laws, rules and procedures, this review process has taken several weeks to complete and is almost done. So far, the city has denied seven applications for lack of compliance, with two so far appealing the decision.

Furthermore, the 85 provisioning center applicants must be scored on criteria in Lansing’s ordinance and detailed in the selection criteria I have made available. I am not making these selections all by myself without input from other experts. I have reached out to experts from across the city’s departments to review applications in their area of expertise like impact such as public safety and traffic to provide feedback based on the scoring criteria available on the web.

In determining who has the strongest business plans, investment impact and job creation, I have selected a national firm, ICF Inc., which has worked across the country in selecting medical marijuana establishments and setting up medical marijuana procedures in Maryland, Massachusetts and California. With all of these expert opinions looking at each application fairly, I believe that I will have the best information available to make decisions.

The Medical Marijuana Ordinance also provides two levels of appeal for applicants who feel they have been denied incorrectly. With public meetings of the Medical Marijuana Commission to hear the second level of appeals, it provides another level of due process.

My office has been providing periodic updates on the review and selection process. If you are interested in getting those updates, please sign up at lansingmi.gov/marijuana or call my office at 517-483-4131 and ask to be put on the Medical Marijuana Updates List.

I have provided much information and sunlight to this process, but I am limited on what application information I can share. The Michigan Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act (MMFLA) and the City of Lansing’s Medical Marijuana Ordinance both exempt licensing information from the Freedom of Information Act. The Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act states, “Information a municipality obtains from an applicant under this section is exempt from disclosure under the freedom of information act MCL 333.27205(4).”

Lansing’s Medical Marihuana Ordinance goes further than exempting information from the Freedom of Information Act by declaring the information to be “confidential.” Specifically, the ordinance states, “To the extent permissible under law, all information submitted in conjunction with an application for a license or license renewal required by this chapter is confidential and exempt from disclosure under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act ….” (Section 1300.8 (A)).

I certainly wish that this review process could move more quickly. However, I want to make sure that the city gets it right, and selects provisioning centers which can serve their patients and be good partners with the city and its residents.

(Chris Swope is the city clerk of Lansing.)