Dec. 6 2018 09:52 AM

City clears way for final approval


Friday could finally be it for up to 10 medical marijuana dispensaries provisionally licensed by the City of Lansing last week.

That’s the day that the state Medical Marihuana Commission is expected to consider final licensing for one or more local dispensaries, a source said. Which ones will not be known until the commission publishes its agenda Thursday.

City Clerk Chris Swope said the long-awaited batch of local approvals — coming more than a year after the process started — ultimately allows applicants to pursue state licensing, will enhance patient access to medicinal bud and served as “definitely a relief” for him and his office.

“It just feels good to be able to move forward with the process,” Swope added.

But it’s difficult to know with certainty if the licensing system is working as intended until operations get up and running, he emphasized. The ordinance-limited licensing cap on 20 provisioning centers has created a “competitive situation,” he said, that has caused some unexpected delays in the entire process.

“People who might have otherwise been qualified — but maybe not the best qualified — didn’t end up with licenses. We’re just working with what we’ve been given,” Swope said, noting city ordinances largely dictate the regulatory scheme. “It’s been an amazing amount of work. Luckily, I have a great staff to help us get through it.”

The 10 recently licensed dispensaries are allowed to operate, but only at the discretion of Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, which is barred from mandating any licensing deadlines under an order from the state Court of Claims.

Included on the list are four dispensaries that have been temporarily operating for months. Five more are vacant storefronts. Another has been “temporarily” closed for weeks for renovations. None have yet been considered for a license by the state, but Swope said his conditional go-ahead opens the door for the upcoming opportunity.

The 10 applicants recently granted local, conditional approval are:

• AEY Holdings LLC. (KIN) at 3425 S Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

• Altum LLC. (Altum Provisions) at 5829 Executive Dr. (Suite A)

• Apex Ultra LLC. (Bazonzoes) at 2101 W. Willow St. (Suite A)

• Better Than Nature LLC. at 820 W. Miller St. (Suite A)

• Capital City LLC. (The Lansing Botanical Co.) at 3525 Capital City Blvd.

• CSHM Services LLC. (Cornerstone Wellness) at 3316 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

• Edgewood Wellness LLC. at 134 E. Edgewood Blvd.

• HG Lansing LLC. (Homegrown Lansing) at 1116 E. Oakland Ave.

• HQ3 Enterprises (Pure Options) at 5815 S. Pennsylvania Ave.

• N-East Services LLC. (Old 27 Wellness) at 2905 N. East St.

Of those, Edgewood Wellness, Homegrown Lansing, Pure Options and Old 27 Wellness are open for business.

“It’s obviously a good thing that Lansing has finally issued some licenses,” added Jeffrey Hank, an attorney and medical marijuana advocate. “It’s still not really clear to me how these top businesses were selected. It’s kind of odd that a vacant building would be selected over other businesses that have been around here for years.”

Swope maintained the 10 selected entrepreneurs had scored among the highest on a largely confidential, 100-point scoring metric. An emphasis was also placed on those who provided the largest economic benefit in terms of jobs and citywide investment, as well as those who worked to minimize any potential negative impacts.

Those scores have been made legislatively exempt from Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act.

Hank also called for the city to raise the cap on the number of dispensaries that will eventually be allowed within the city. The city’s Medical Marihuana Commission also urged City Council to do so in October. They haven’t taken action. Officials have said no changes will be made until all licenses are awarded.

Twenty will be licensed in the first round.

Swope couldn’t offer a timeframe for when the remaining 10 licenses will be awarded but suggested a few more shops could possibly receive the city’s greenlight before the end of the year.

Five more will receive licenses next year.

Applications for the next round will be accepted in February.

“If the goal is uninterrupted patient access, they need to get as many operating storefronts up and running as soon as possible,” Hank suggested, noting as many as 30 dispensaries should eventually set up shop in Lansing.

The ten shops are set to hire 1,444 people and invest $51.5 million locally, Swope said. He wasn’t able to provide documentation to verify those figures, citing privacy laws that protect the release of applicants’ proprietary information. He also noted those totals include the entire scope of their business plans — not just dispensaries.

“I believe that selecting these 10 applicants is the best decision for the city,” Swope said, noting applicants still need occupancy certificates before licensure. “It is a balance between the needs of patients to ensure continuity of services within the city, the requirements of the state and the appeals process set by the ordinance.”

A few local marijuana dispensaries that missed the first round of licensing, however, continue to temporarily operate within the city while they await a more permanent ruling from a state judge. And they’ll be permitted to do so until at least the end of the year following a recent deal between state officials and the city of Lansing.

Officials at the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs are court-ordered from imposing another shutdown deadline on temporary operating dispensaries. A spokesperson for the department confirmed that LARA will not take any enforcement action before Dec. 31, regardless of whether that order remains intact.

Only two local dispensaries — Greenwave Provisioning Center and Cannaiseur — have been considered by the state for licensing. Greenwave was denied prequalification for its inadequate “personal and business probity,” according to the Medical Marihuana Licensing Board. The city also denied them for a license the next day.

Owner Tom Mayes rebutted the reasoning behind the denial and is actively working to appeal the decision. (See related story, P. 5.)

Cannaiseur, on the other hand, received pre-qualification status on Oct. 18. It was not selected among the city’s top applicants and still remains on Swope’s “pending” list for licensing applications. Without a license, it could eventually be asked to close should officials at LARA decide to impose another shutdown deadline.

Visit lansingcitypulse.com for more detailed coverage on the state of the medical marijuana industry.

kyle@lansingcitypulse.com