Nov. 29 2010 12:00 AM

The Lansing City Council will introduce an ordinance tonight that places a moratorium on “medical marihuana establishments”

Monday, Nov. 29 — The Lansing City Council is scheduled to introduce an ordinance to place a moratorium on medical marijuana businesses at tonight’s meeting before a planned public hearing Dec. 6.

The ordinance would set up a permitting process through the City Clerk’s office for any new businesses looking to open, but that could not happen until the moratorium is lifted. The Council would likely vote on Dec. 13 on whether to put a hold on what are commonly referred to as dispensaries.

“Medical marihuana establishments” are defined in the ordinance as “any nonresidential land use involving the growth, distribution, storage, or use of marihuana.” There are 16 such businesses in the city, but those would not be affected by a moratorium.

Without giving a specific end date on the moratorium, the ordinance says the City Clerk’s office will not issue any permits until “such time as an ordinance regulating medical marihuana establishments has been adopted to supersede it.”

However, that further regulation is in the works. The Public Safety Committee is mulling over a draft ordinance that City Attorney Brig Smith has referred to as “volume two” of medical marijuana regulation in the city. That ordinance permits “compassionate care centers” with certain distance restrictions from public and private schools.

Other characteristics of “compassionate care centers” include fee-based memberships for caregivers and patients, it must be incorporated as a nonprofit and show “services indicating a bona fide service-oriented relationship between the compassionate care center and its members.”

Though it does not grant state or federal immunity, the draft ordinance describes Lansing as a “safe harbor” for what are commonly known as dispensaries.

On Sept. 20, the Council adopted an ordinance that regulates in-home dispensing of cannabis.

The moratorium, if approved by a majority of the Council, would be in place “until the city has completed its study of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act.”

Two groups have expressed formal support for the moratorium: a local branch of the Fraternal Order of Police and the Lewton Rich Neighborhood Association.

Thomas Krug, executive director of Lodge 141 of the Order, wrote in a Nov. 19 letter to the city that “the impact on law enforcement should not be settled in haste and a policy developed to ensure the proper use and dispensing of medical marijuana.”

Lewton Rich was less guarded in its letter, which was signed by seven members of the organization, including the group’s President Patty Farhat and Vice President Angela Allen.

“We are as unhappy, as are most of the residents of the city of Lansing, with the reckless manner in which the State Legislature passed this initiated law in December, 2008,” the letter says. “Our hope lies in you to rectify this situation/problem so that future moratoriums will be better monitored and penalties forced if these moratoriums are in violation of the initiated law.”