June 29 2011 12:00 AM

An Editorial

The medical marijuana ordinance that the Lansing City
Council passed Tuesday is an outrageous infringement on the rights of
dispensary owners and an insult to voters. And the atmosphere in which
it was passed reeks of a witch-hunt.

The Council had plenty of time to fashion a reasonable
ordinance since the imposition of a moratorium on new dispensaries last
December. But with Friday’s expiration of the moratorium looming, the
Council desperately pushed through an ordinance that will no doubt
result in a well-deserved lawsuit against it.

At the heart of the ordinance is a mean-spirited effort
led by Councilwoman Carol Wood to shut down the dispensaries on Michigan
Avenue. The ordinance bans dispensaries from being within 1,000 feet of
churches, schools, playgrounds, substance abuse centers and even each
other. In essence, as our story today reports, the ordinance will force
all 11 dispensaries on Michigan Avenue to move or close. Wood and crew
might as well have said they couldn’t be within 1,000 feet of manholes.

Wood has made no secret of her disgust
with dispensaries on Michigan Avenue, putting her out of step with
Lansing voters, who along with an overwhelming majority of Michiganians
approved of medical marijuana in a 2008 vote. Wood ended up voting
against the overly restrictive ordinance — but only because it wasn’t
restrictive enough. Wood, who has sought to impede progress in Lansing
on a number of fronts over the years, is up for re-election this year.
It’s time for voters to finish the job they started two years ago when
they rejected her bid for mayor by a wide margin.

Wood’s malicious efforts were aided by an
unlikely pair, Joan Nelson and Jim Herbert. Nelson, who has achieved
much for the east side as the executive director of the Allen
Neighborhood Center, found common ground with Herbert, the chairman and
CEO of Neogen, in demanding a much stiffer ordinance than Council
appeared headed toward passing two weeks ago. She has damaged her
admirable record of working for people of limited means, many of whom
substitute medical marijuana for the prescription drugs they cannot
readily obtain. Moreover, she aligned herself with people who made
odious comparisons of dispensaries to the X-rated shops that were on
Michigan Avenue into the early 1990s.

Herbert was one of those people. Besides
drudging up the porn stores, he made a ridiculous claim that in his home
on Marshall Street he could hear noisy crowds in front of dispensaries
on Michigan Avenue. And of medical marijuana users, he said: “I’m not
saying anything about the character of the people in this for profit.
But I do see what their clientele looks like.” He called the
dispensaries “embarrassing” when he showed Lansing to European guests.
Is he going to be more proud of the city when those businesses revert to
the empty storefronts virtually all of them recently were? 

Fortunately, the fight over this
ordinance isn’t done. The dispensary owners may sue now or wait a year
and force the city to sue them when they refuse to close. In the
meanwhile, they need to organize themselves as the potent force they can
be in this election season so that voters can have the final say.