Pubdate: Wed, 1 Dec 2010
Source: City Pulse (Lansing, MI)
Page: 5
Copyright: 2010 City Pulse
Author: Andy Balaskovitz
Cited: City Council
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Michigan)


The Mayor Calls a Moratorium on New Medical Marijuana Businesses 
'Absolute Nonsense' And 'Nixonian.' Meanwhile, Businesses Scramble to 
Get Grandfathered In

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero is in a fiery mood against a proposed 
ordinance that could place a moratorium on medical marijuana 
businesses for up to a year.

"They're trying to say no to commercial dispensaries," Bernero said.

"It's absolute nonsense and it's unnecessary. It's an attempt to 
thwart the will of the voters," Bernero added, speaking in an interview.

The proposed ordinance would ban any new medical marijuana 
establishments for up to a year while the City Council and the city 
attorney draft an ordinance that includes licensing through the city 
clerk's office. A medical marijuana establishment is defined as "any 
nonresidential land use involving the growth, distribution, storage, 
or use" of marijuana.

The City Council voted 6-2 to schedule a public hearing followed by a 
likely vote on Dec. 6. City Council Vice President Kathie Dunbar and 
Fourth Ward Councilwoman Jessica Yorko opposed.

"This is the old Nixonian, silent-majority approach," Bernero said of 
the moratorium. "They're trying to stall it, delay it, stop it, ban it."

Bernero criticized a "faction of City Council that just wants to turn 
back the clock" on medical marijuana in Lansing, specifically naming 
At-Large Councilwoman Carol Wood because she is chairwoman of the 
Public Safety Committee, which has been working on medical marijuana 

He said Wood had nine months to come up with an ordinance regulating 
the businesses rather than blocking them.

"She took nine months to write a moratorium?" Bernero asked. "It's 
just say no - I could have done that in a day."

If "clustering" - businesses in close proximity - was the problem, 
the Council should look at that and regulate it, not ban it, he said. 
Michigan Avenue is often cited as an example of clustering. Since the 
law took effect last year, 12 medical marijuana-related businesses, 
mostly clinics and dispensaries, have opened there.

"We should be proactive and regulate and license," Bernero said. "I 
don't believe they should all be clustered together, but let's 
regulate it to accommodate it. Not ban it."

He also cautioned about the potential spillover of businesses into 
neighborhoods because commercial areas would be blocked off from dispensing it.

"They're trying to push medical marijuana out of the storefronts. In 
other words, push it back into the shadows," he said. "Personally, 
I'd like to see it on 'Main Street' than hidden in our back alleys."

Wood maintains that the purpose of the moratorium is to keep a bunch 
of "unregulated" businesses from popping up.

To Bernero's charge that the moratorium is nonsense, Wood said: "I 
guess that's his idea of regionalism," adding that she has been asked 
by "regional study groups" to follow their lead with a moratorium. 
Other mid- Michigan communities, including East Lansing, have 
declared moratoriums while they decide how to regulate dispensaries.

The proposed ordinance lists 17 businesses with their addresses that 
would be allowed to operate despite a moratorium. City Attorney Brig 
Smith said any other businesses that start up or who have not 
approached his office by Dec. 6 to be included could be shut down by the city.

Smith crafted the moratorium language after struggling for months 
with language that identifies dispensary-type businesses.

Robin Schneider, owner of Capitol City Compassion Club, 2010 E. 
Michigan Ave., takes issue with language in the ordinance that would 
require people who simply grow in a nonresidential area to register 
with the city. Schneider said she knows at least four people who grow 
for their patients in a nonresidential zone.

"To me, the real issue is that the ordinance says 'growth,'" she 
said. "People do not feel comfortable having their name written in an 
ordinance to get grandfathered in."

Smith said this is something "I'd want to think about more." He added 
that he expects to hear from everybody who wants to be protected from 
the moratorium by Monday.

Meanwhile, business owners are scrambling to get their operations up 
before the moratorium kicks in.

Lee opened Mary Jane's Compassion Club in south Lansing on Friday 
once word of a moratorium got around. He did not want to give his last name.

"We're definitely doing the scramble," Lee said on being grandfathered in.

Lee is concerned that the moratorium could take too long and that 
local officials forget about the majority of Michiganders who approved the law.

"I hope they don't curtail it too much," he said.

Evolve Medical Marijuana Services, 2312 E. Michigan Ave., scarcely 
had paint on its walls and an open sign Tuesday when owner James 
Lerma found out a moratorium is possible. Though Evolve got rolling 
before word of the moratorium got out, Lerma said he'd be speeding 
things up to get to the city attorney's office "We opened up before I 
wanted to," Lerma said. "I saw it on the news (the moratorium) and 
thought, 'My God, I had no idea."

Corey Tripp, a "budtender" at Turtle's across the street from Evolve, 
is in the process of opening a new location with business partners. 
Would he be scrambling to open up shop before Dec. 6?

"Most definitely," he said. "We'll see if it comes to fruition. We 
have two or three days to figure out what's going on."
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake