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Lansing Township says no to pot dispensaries


Lansing Township has passed a highly restrictive medical marijuana ordinance, banning dispensaries altogether and allowing only three related licenses: one for a growing operation and two for safety compliance facilities.

By passing the ordinance on Jan. 23, Lansing Township joined Lansing, East Lansing and Windsor Township as the only governmental jurisdictions in mid-Michigan to create pot regulations. Under the new state law, businesses must have a local license in order to gain a state license or they cannot operate legally.

Besides barring dispensaries, the township has banned processors and secure transporters, two categories the new state law provides for.

The township — with a population of 8,126 living in five noncontiguous parcels in and around Lansing — will permit a Class A grower, which the state allows to grow up to 500 plants, as well as the two safety compliance businesses. The application fee will be $5,000, with facilities required to renew their licenses annually.

Township Clerk Susan Aten said no business interests appeared before the Board of Trustees to make a case for dispensaries, whereas they did for the growing and safety compliance operations.

Lansing Township was still working to craft the specifics of the application, which is set to open on March 1.

“The application itself is under design right now,” Aten said. “We’re doing research on what the state law covers, what portion we need to cover — we’re just educating our selves on it.”

Facilities who choose to operate in violation of Lansing Township’s ordinance face a fine of anywhere from $100 for first-time offenders to $1,000 for repeat violators. Each day of illegal operation is considered a new offense, according to the ordinance.

Assuming Lansing Township grants the maximum amount of licenses, the township will average less than one medical marijuana facility per square mile.

The city of Lansing, which is limited to 25 provisioning centers but is free to grant licenses to all of the 52 current applicants for other facilities, would average just over two per square mile, assuming they grant the maximum.

The Michigan Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act, the state law, requires grower facilities to be placed in an industrial zone, an agricultural zone or a locally approved unzoned area.

Aten said that the majority of the township’s industrial zones were located on the west side — where old GM properties lie — and on the east side, making these the most likely places for the three allowed facilities to locate.

Two portions of Lansing Township are completely surrounded by Lansing.

The city won’t allow a dispensary within 1,000 feet of an operating school and 500 feet of playground equipment, churches, child care centers and substance abuse treatment centers.

Lansing’s ordinance does not place the same distance requirements on other facility types, only mandating that they be placed in industrial zones.

City Attorney Jim Smiertka was previously unaware Lansing Township had enacted an ordinance regulating marijuana facilities, but said it is the township’s choice to decide whether to abide by the “buffered zones” written into the city’s ordinance. Lansing will follow any provisions in the township’s ordinance, he said.

“Our ordinance says within a church — it doesn’t say specifically that it has to be a Lansing church or a Lansing whatever else,” Smiertka said.

Lansing Township’s ordinance places no distance restrictions on either of the approved facility types.

Aten appreciated the city’s decision to respect the township’s ordinance. She said it was likely that there were industrial zones in Lansing Township that could potentially lie within a restricted distance of the city’s buffer zones.

“We do have industrial property in the township that would be within 1,000 feet of a city school, I believe, and we would definitely look at that,” Aten said.

However, Aten said the small number of licenses the township would grant — combined with the city’s lack of distance requirements for growers or secure transporters — made it unlikely that any conflicts would arise.

The township’s late start on opting in to state law regulating marijuana facilities likely means no businesses will be allowed to operate within the township until state licenses are handed out.

The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs said applicants for a state license must either submit an attestation of local approval for temporary operation by Thursday, Feb. 15, or shut down until they receive a state license.

Aten said that as of Monday, she had submitted one attestation on behalf of a grower. With the township’s application period for medical marijuana facilities not set to begin until March, it will be impossible for applicants to have obtained a local license by LARA’s deadline.

LARA spokesman David Harns said the Medical Marihuana Licensing Board will begin considering license applications at its March or April board meetings.

If an applicant has not received a decision by June 15, that facility would have to shut down in order to remain eligible for a license.


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