Lansing City Council approves ordinance cap on medical marijuana dispensaries in the area
On Thursday night, the Lansing City Council approved a city ordinance to put a cap on the number of medical marijuana dispensaries allowed in the city. The ordinance calls for a maximum of 25 dispensaries within Lansing city limits. Currently, there are between 50 and 80, meaning just over half of the medical marijuana provisioning centers will have to shut their doors.
A dispensary owner in Lansing, who asked to keep his name and business anonymous, says the ordinance is a good thing.
“It means that I get a shot to have a legitimate business,” the dispensary owner said. “It means there’s a set of rules to play by.”
For some, the ordinance is an ominous sign in the ever-shifting landscape of medical marijuana.
“This ordinance is really restrictive,” said Chris Silva, a political consultant with Lansing’s KIND Dispensary. “For a lot of people, it eliminates the opportunity to even pursue a license. And then the setbacks and zoning issues and zoning restraints that it puts on businesses makes very difficult for people who are not highly, highly capitalized to be able to find a place that would fit the parameters because the real estate market for that stuff is just going to get insane right now. It sets up a system that makes it inherently unfair and difficult for the operators that have already been providing service and medicine to patients, some of them for 6, 8 years.”
Silva says this is another tactic from the government to help the wealthy build a monopoly on yet another industry.
“I think that it’s another pretty blatant example of special interests and borderline corruption in government,” he said. “It’s going to set up a playing field that’s unfair in nature and it’s gonna highly favor really, really rich people. People that are coming into it just so insanely rich already.”
The dispensary owner isn’t worried about his shop’s chances of becoming a licensed dispensary. He said that he did his “homework” all through the waiting period and is following in accordance with all of the state’s regulations, including proper signage and distance from schools, churches and various businesses. He also said that he attended all of the related meetings that City Council held and medical marijuana advocates were nowhere to be found.
“For people to be upset about what’s happened? To me? That’s just being lazy,” the shop owner said. “They had every opportunity to go out to the meetings I went to. Every opportunity to speak at those meetings and make their voices heard. And they didn’t.”
Dispensary owners know there will be a dark period in Lansing where the state will be in limbo between closing the city’s provisioning centers and handing out licenses to approved shops. During that time, dispensaries will be closed, and patients will have to find new ways to get their medicine.
Both the anonymous dispensary owner and Silva agreed that the dispensary shutdowns will cause a hike in marijuana prices.
“I think what it will do is divert more people into the extralegal sector,” Silva said. He said that more people will be pushed into selling and buying drugs illegally once the convenience of dispensaries disappears.
At-large Councilmembers Judi Brown Clarke, Patricia Spitzley and Kathie Dunbar along with 2nd Ward Member, Tina Houghton, and 4th Ward Councilmember, Jessica Yorko, all voted in favor of the ordinance.
In addition to the dispensary cap, the new ordinance also requires businesses to pay for licenses to operate, grow and transport marijuana.
An application for a license in Lansing will cost $5,000 – $2,500 of which will be refunded if the applicant doesn’t receive a license. The renewal fee, which runs on a yearly basis, also costs $5,000.
Councilmember Carol Wood along with 1st Ward Councilmember Jody Washington and 3rd Ward Councilmember Adam Hussain opposed the passed bill.
The MSU community had a mixed reaction to the event. One student, a medicinal marijuana card-holding junior hospitality major, who asked to remain anonymous, agreed that the dispensary layout in Lansing had been getting out of hand.
“I think they just realized that too many dispensaries were opening up. It was getting a little out of hand. Dispensaries were opening up next to churches, a few blocks down from schools,” he said. “They don’t want to have that face in the city.”
The student also acknowledged the impact that it will have on some fellow classmates.
“What about the people that work at the dispensaries as a part-time job?" he said. "I know a lot of students that work at the dispensaries. What are they going to do?”
Another MSU student, packaging junior Blake Gendregske, doesn’t have a medicinal card but realizes the ripple effect from the ordinance may affect him.
“It could affect me indirectly because if I try and get marijuana, it might be harder for me to get it,” Gendregske said.
“It seems they’re trying to cut back,” Gendregske said regarding the passed ordinance. “And they’re trying to restrict it a little bit and make it less accessible for people.”
Unless given immediate action from the city council, the ordinance will take effect 30 days after its enactment.
In a Facebook post, Lansing Mayor Virgil Bernero – a noted medical marijuana advocate – applauded the passage of the ordinance.