Proposed pot law changes burn out with Betz’ resignation

Ordinance amendments go up in smoke

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Plans from former Lansing City Councilman Brandon Betz to expand the local licensing cap on the number of marijuana growing facilities, microbusinesses and consumption lounges that are allowed within the city limits have dissolved following Betz’ abrupt resignation last month.

Before he quit, Betz had proposed an amendment to the city’s marijuana ordinance to erase the 75-license limit on cultivation facilities — instead allowing for an infinite number to open in Lansing, as well as an increased number of microbusinesses and on-site consumption lounges.

But before those changes could be introduced to the Planning Board this month, Betz quit. And his proposed ordinance amendments followed him out the door. Council President Adam Hussain said the proposal can no longer advance without a Council sponsor.

And so far, nobody on the Council is willing to pick up where Betz left off. Hussain said that he’s “open to the conversation,” but he is otherwise personally disinterested in reviving the changes.

“I’m open to the conversation of whether caps on certain license types are appropriate/adequate now that we are a few years into this and have a better understanding of what our ordinance has meant for the industry here in the city.”

He also told City Pulse: “As you know, I take my marching orders from those I represent.” Hussain represents the 3rd Ward, which is in southwest Lansing.

The recreational marijuana ordinance passed in 2019 allows for a maximum of 75 cannabis cultivation facilities, with a built-in clause that reduced that limit to 55 facilities through attrition beginning last year. As of this year, more than 70 cultivation facilities are still growing and open for business — leaving no room for any additional companies to open within the city of Lansing.

Betz’ proposal would have essentially handed local oversight to the state, enabling the City Clerk’s Office to dole out city licenses to any grower that has also been licensed by state regulators. The former Councilman labeled the proposal a “pro-business approach” that was designed to open the door to more economic investment and allow the city to be more competitive in the industry.

“I don’t want so much gatekeeping in the cannabis industry,” Betz explained. “These extreme limits could be sending the wrong message. I want people to know that Lansing is open for business, that we’re not going to stand in the way of allowing this industry to keep on growing.”

The proposal had also sought to boost the allowable number of microbusinesses and consumption lounges citywide from four to 50 and tried to erase a prohibition on the facilities in commercial areas — which would have instead allowed them to open on busier, commercial strips rather than just on far-flung industrial properties, Betz told City Pulse in November.

A microbusiness license allows for smaller-scale entrepreneurs to grow, harvest and process up to 150 of their own marijuana plants that can also be sold directly to customers on site. Betz had said that allowing for more of them in Lansing would open the door to more small businesses — especially for the local “moms and pops” of the weed world without corporate cash to burn. So far, no microbusinesses or consumption lounges have been licensed to operate in Lansing.

Betz’ proposal would not have adjusted the limitless cap on licenses for processing facilities, safety compliance labs or transportation companies. It also would not have expanded the city’s 28-shop limit on provisioning centers — only for cultivators, microbusinesses and lounges.

Over the last several weeks, the proposed changes met a warm reception among cannabis entrepreneurs — including several who said that they initially had plans to expand their cultivation operations in Lansing, but were otherwise limited by the ordinance.

Hussain said that the Council plans to reopen the city’s pot ordinance for a different set of amendments from City Clerk Chris Swope this year, including zoning-related changes that could allow testing laboratories and processing facilities to operate closer to downtown Lansing.

An early proposal introduced to the Planning Board last month could also allow the city to revoke conditional licenses if the applicant fails to obtain a state license within two years.

“Anything is possible” in terms of other changes as those amendments advance, Hussain said.

But between Betz’ resignation and former Councilwoman Kathie Dunbar’s departure from the dais this year, the City Council is now running a bit slim on vocal cannabis industry enthusiasts.

In 2019, this writer asked the Council members whether they consume cannabis. Only Betz, Dunbar and Councilman Brian Jackson said they regularly toked. Two of them are gone. The others at the time — including Jeremy Garza, Hussain, Peter Spadafore, Patricia Sptizley and Carol Wood — may not necessarily have a problem with pot, but said they don’t smoke it.

Spadafore said last week that he was also still interested in discussing Betz’ old proposal, though he doesn’t expect the Council to be particularly speedy in bringing it back.

“I don’t think it’s a secret that we’ve lost two of our biggest advocates for the expansion of the industry in Lansing,” Spadafore added. “I don’t think this Council is going to approach this topic in a hostile sort of way, but I also don’t think it will be particularly aggressive in making changes.”

Councilman Jeff Brown stopped returning calls to City Pulse after he was elected in November, so his stance on marijuana regulation is relatively unknown. Newly appointed First Ward Councilman Brian Daniels, however, labels himself a “huge” cannabis proponent. He’s also a regular consumer and even offered to light up a joint with this writer during a brief interview late last month.

Daniels was still attaching the training wheels to his new Council career this week, but said he plans to “look into” Betz’ proposal and consider some “more progressive” cannabis reforms.

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