In Greater Lansing, a fight is brewing between medical marijuana activists and city officials, who continue to implement Lansing’s 2017 Medical Marijuana Ordinance No.1217.
On March 23, Lansing issued its first round denials with 18 dispensaries receiving denial letters, many of which were already operating within the city.
The ordinance limits the amount of medical marijuana dispensaries to 20, with five more to be added on an undecided date.
Popular dispensaries that have been denied include Capital Dank in Reo Town and Capital Wellness.
In addition to city closures of medical marijuana dispensaries, eight Lansing dispensaries, including Capital Dank, have received state issued cease and desist orders for not applying by the Feb. 15 deadline for state medical marijuana licenses, according to the .
Over 200 cease and desist letters were sent to dispensaries across the state of Michigan. There were 85 dispensary applications submitted to the city of Lansing.
Before the passage of the ordinance, some reports claimed there were as many as 80 medical marijuana dispensaries operating within city limits.
"They have an appeal process, so they can submit a written appeal within 14 days of their denial. So far, I don’t think a deadline has passed to submit an appeal," Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope said. "They have two rounds of appeals actually, and then after that they would have to file a lawsuit.”
In November 2017, pro-marijuana group Let Lansing Vote sued Swope in relation to a referendum attempt to overturn the 2017 Medical Marijuana Ordinance. Members of Let Lansing Vote pleaded with city officials at the city council meeting on March 26.
“Let Lansing Vote is a group of people who believe that it’s important to let the citizens vote on ordinances of concern,” said Sarah Wilbur, a member of Let Lansing Vote and a medical marijuana patient who goes to many of Lansing’s dispensaries. “The ones (dispensaries) that I frequent as a patient have all been closed."
Fundamentally, members of the group think a number closer to 45 dispensaries better suits the size of the Greater Lansing area and its medical marijuana market. Members of the group believe their referendum was illegally thrown out by Swope.
Swope said more than one-third of the more than 6,000 signatures originally turned in by Let Lansing Vote were in fact, invalid, lowering the signatures to less than 4,000, the 5 percent minimum of Lansing residents needed for a valid referendum.
Let Lansing Vote members said during the Lansing City Council meeting a dangerous precedent could be set if Lansing wins the lawsuit in the appellate court. Members said during the meeting their referendum denial was unjust, and they are afraid an appellate court ruling could allow cities across Michigan to throw out citizen referendums with little to no evidence.
Lansing city officials are moving forward with the marijuana facility application process.
“Some of the 85 applicants were ones that were existing and they continue to operate. Some of them are proposing new establishments, so they are not operating yet. That’s not what we're evaluating on,” Swope said. “We’re evaluating based on their business plan and history of regulatory compliance, the number of jobs they expect to bring to the city and various other similar aspects.”
The first round of dispensary approvals, with compliance to Lansing’s medical marijuana ordinance, will allow for 20 medical marijuana facilities.
The city will then move toward approving five more dispensaries for a total of 25 within city limits. The city has no date for when either numbers will be concluded.
“We’re working on it as quickly as we can. We contracted with a company to score the majority of the hundred-point scale. They have expertise in reviewing business plans. We've got some preliminary data back from them, but we haven’t gotten the final numbers,” Swope said. “Then we have to put it together with some scoring we're coming up with in the city, a plan to deal with odor, various other things that are on our scoring criteria that we need to come up with and assess.”
In addition to the 85 dispensary applications, there have been more than 50 applications for growing operations in the city.
“If they all meet the qualifications, they will all get licenses,” Swope said.
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For more information on pending medical marijuana dispensaries in Lansing, an updated list is available online here.
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