Sept. 21 2010 12:00 AM

City Council unanimously approves medical marijuana ordinance

The Lansing City Council approved an ordinance, 5-,0 at Monday night’s meeting to regulate medical marijuana caregivers who conduct business in their homes.

City Attorney Brig Smith said that while drafting the ordinance, there was concern by the public that the ordinance would target all caregivers, so the Council amended the ordinance at Monday’s meeting to specifically address caregivers whose patients buy cannabis at their home.

The ordinance stipulates that only one caregiver can operate at a home, no advertising can be placed outside and any energy use and heat generation that could pose a fire hazard has to be approved by the fire marshal and the Building Safety Office.

Caregivers also cannot be located within 1,000 feet of any public or private schools, playgrounds, churches or substance abuse rehabilitation centers.

At-Large Councilwoman Carol Wood, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, said this ordinance was meant to approach the state’s vague medical marijuana law “in small bites,” adding that “this will only have a small effect” on a few licensed caregivers who sell cannabis.

Wood added that violations come with a civil infraction, but that those are “usually driven by complaints.”

Because City Council President A’Lynne Robinson and At-Large Councilmen Brian Jeffries and Derrick Quinney were absent for the meeting, the Council will vote next week on having the ordinance take immediate effect (it requires six votes).

Robert Ovalle, who comments regularly at City Council meetings, was one of two who addressed the medical marijuana ordinance at Monday’s meeting. “It (cannabis) should just be completely legal,” he said.

Claude Beavers commented at the end of the meeting that alcohol is a drug just like cannabis and that the 1,000-foot distance requirement for distribution and sales should apply to both. “I’d like to see the same distances for both,” he said.

In other business, the public hearing on the snow and ice removal ordinance brought out mostly negative feedback from the public. Opposing comments on the ordinance outnumbered those in support 10 to 4.

Many who opposed said that, most of the time, the snow that is piled up on sidewalks comes from city plow trucks pushing it over the sides of the curb as they plow streets. “Slow down the plows,” David Riddle said, “and you prevent the problem. Everyone will benefit.” Riddle also requested that the ordinance require the Public Service Department to “prove” there was a violation initially rather than “accusing residents.”

Beavers said the potential five-day lapse between a snow event is too long if the goal is to keep sidewalks safe. “A lot of heartbreak and misery can happen in those five days,” he said. Beavers also echoed Riddle’s sentiments: “The Public Service Department must find a way to not throw snow on my sidewalks,” he said.

Council regular John Pollard called this snow from plow trucks “kryptonite snow” and suggested the city organize neighborhood groups to go around and shovel problem properties and those where the elderly or disabled live.

The four comments in favor thanked the City Council for being proactive on the ordinance. “A hallmark of an excellent city is to represent all forms of transportation,” Julie Powers said, speaking on behalf of the Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council. She added that more than 850 people walk or bike to work in Lansing everyday.

“It’s important our policies reflect all constituents,” she said.

At the beginning of Monday’s meeting, City Clerk Chris Swope announced that absentee ballots for the General Election are available at City Hall to pick up and will also be mailed out by the end of this week.