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For Ben Richards, the medical marijuana ordinance passed by the East Lansing City Council last week was more than just a routine decision.

Richards, a human biology junior, said chronic back pain from a spinal fusion surgery in 2007 is the clinical reason behind his medical marijuana use. He is just one of the people who will be affected by the ordinance, which allows for medical marijuana dispensaries in certain parts of East Lansing. Now that the ordinance has passed, city officials and residents are discussing how it might be implemented.

"The proximity to the dispensaries and a start or baseline of legality that allows me to have some rights would be (a positive)," Richards said.

An ordinance enacted

At its March 15 meeting, council decided to suspend a moratorium formerly in place upon commercial medical marijuana distribution in East Lansing and enact an ordinance allowing dispensaries in specific locations of the city.

The ordinance officially allows medical marijuana to be dispersed from dispensaries run by up to five licensed caregivers, Assistant City Attorney Tom Yeadon said.

He said dispensaries in East Lansing would be subject to other restrictions under the ordinance, such as zoning location, a 500-foot distance requirement between dispensaries and a 1,000-foot distance requirement away from schools.

Ken Van Every, owner of Compassionate Apothecary of Lansing, a medical marijuana dispensary with more than 50 caregivers serving about 700 people, said putting a limit on caregivers is not beneficial to the patients who use the medicine.

"The patient (would be) very, very limited on what they have the option of buying," Van Every said.


Now that an ordinance has been put in place, it's important for the city to continue working with it and make sure it makes sense for East Lansing, Councilmember Nathan Triplett said. He said he'd like to meet with other municipalities across the East Lansing borders that have different policies in terms of medical marijuana distribution.

Triplett said although the ordinance is not perfect, it probably will be a feasible solution for the commercial distribution of medical marijuana in the city.

For people who typically grow their own medical marijuana such as Richards, though, the ordinance won't have much effect on their day-to-day life. Although he said the ordinance likely would promote crucial understanding of the medicine within the community.

"It's the uneducated that are making the statements that (medical marijuana is) a menace to the society," Richards said.


Though the ordinance has some supporters in the city, the decision did not come without opposition.

Some residents still were concerned with the supposed incompleteness of the document, East Lansing resident Don Power said at council's March 15 meeting.

"In our view, you have the framework to work within, but you're not done," he said.

Choosing only B4 districts – restricted zoning districts in East Lansing primarily reserved for office and medical use in areas around Lake Lansing Road, Coolidge Road, Abbot Road – could be viewed as a form of restrictive zoning, said Jeffrey Hank, an East Lansing attorney. Hank, who said he wanted dispensaries to be allowed in retail zoning areas as well, said the patients were being inconvenienced by the restriction of this ordinance.

"Very few locations are actually available there ... (and) a lot of the landlords in that area don't want dispensaries opening in their building," Hank said. "The city is standing in between patients and their medicine."

Council also was divided slightly on the issue. East Lansing Mayor Vic Loomis – the only council member who voted against the passage of the ordinance – said more time should have been taken to work out issues with the ordinance before passing it.

"I have yet to have a single person put any pressure (on council to push forward with an ordinance)," Loomis said in the March 15 meeting. "Surrounding jurisdictions are backtracking (in terms of medical marijuana ordinances)."

A medical use

Staton said the B4 district was chosen because in the city's interpretation of the ordinance, medical marijuana is a medicine and should be treated in that manner.

"The B4 zone allows for office uses because the law makes medical marijuana a medical use – it's being treated as a medical use (in the ordinance)," Staton said. "We don't think that means a storefront dispensary."

The zoning district might not be the perfect district to place medical marijuana operations, but likely is the best decision for the city at this point in time, Staton said.

Van Every said he wouldn't choose to start a business that wasn't a storefront because of the competition from other dispensaries in the area.

"I don't think you'd be able to be competitive and be able to grow your business without exposure," Van Every said.

Long time coming

Although some Michigan cities chose to ban medical marijuana outright or ignore the issue of regulation, city officials took considerable time discussing and planning out a course of action for the issue, making a decision to enact the ordinance after nearly seven months of deliberation, Triplett said.

Zach Jarou, scientific director at Cannalytics, a cannabis testing laboratory, said the city took a positive step forward with the ordinance and he was impressed with the way council studied and discussed the issue for several months before coming to a decision.

"Many (council members) probably weren't aware of how complicated the issue was initially — they did a pretty good job," Jarou said.

News Hawk- Jacob Husky 420 MAGAZINE
Source: statenews.com
Author: Lauren Gibbons
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