How many is too many? Lansing’s abundance of medical marijuana dispensaries worries some residents

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Photo by Dan DeNova

Elaine Womboldt addresses key issues at monthly Rejuvenating South Lansing meeting.

Dispensary owners and Lansing residents have been disputing a recent medical marijuana ordinance during biweekly City Council meetings. Some people in Lansing believe the flooded medical marijuana market results from poor marijuana dispensary regulations.

“The purpose of the ordinance is to have realistic dispensaries available to people that really have a medical marijuana need,” said Marylin Ebaugh, resident of South Lansing. “What we have now is an over abundance of businesses.”

A study conducted by Melissa Huber, Ph.D, estimates the number of patients spiked from 937 in 2011, to 2,866 in 2015. Some believe the process to obtain a medical marijuana card can be easily abused.

“I think there are a very small percentage that really need it,” said Lansing resident Kathy Miles. To meet the high demand of patients, dispensary owners continue to open shops in many of Lansing’s vacant buildings.

Carol Wood, Lansing City Council member, estimates over 70 medical marijuana dispensaries are congesting Lansing’s major corridors. Some dispensaries are believed to operate illegally, exceeding the limit of five patients per caregiver.

“We believe that there is a need for medical marijuana dispensaries, we understand that,” said Wood. “But you can go from one to another and find that one has a caregiver dispensing to their five patients, versus ones that are currently operating illegally that are actually selling marijuana to any cardholder.”

Founder and Facilitator of Rejuvenating South Lansing, Elaine Womboldt, holds monthly meetings open to members of the community. Womboldt has attended City Council meetings regarding various medical marijuana ordinances for the past 18 months, unable to find common ground with dispensary owners.

Elaine Womboldt addresses key issues at monthly Rejuvenating South Lansing meeting.

Photo by Dan DeNova

Elaine Womboldt addresses key issues at monthly Rejuvenating South Lansing meeting.

“We’re carefully watching all of the different variations of all the ordinances,” said Womboldt. “We want to make sure that we have the best balance for quality of life in Lansing and safety issues.”

Wood is pushing for better health safety regulations to ensure patients receive a quality product. She is concerned some of the marijuana could be grown in a hazardous environments.

“We have caregivers that have purchased abandoned houses and are growing in those that have lead paint; That’s not a safe product,” said Wood.

Womboldts’ biggest issue with medical marijuana is the lack of enforcement. Some businesses have more than the maximum patients. Some businesses lack the required license needed to operate a medical marijuana dispensary.

“We wouldn’t have all these marijuana dispensaries if they enforced the ordinance,” Womboldt said.

Jay Thorburn, owner of Capital City Grower Supply, has sold gardening supplies in Lansing for more than seven years. He’s witnessed dispensaries open and close.

“At one point in time the city had shut them all down to only see our buildings go empty,” said Thorburn.

Now, the variety and large list of dispensaries attracts visitors from other cities in Michigan.

“A lot of people. . . they’re coming just for our dispensaries and spending a whole weekend,” said Thorburn. “They’re spending money at our restaurants, our hotels.”

The next city council meeting will be held on Monday, July 10.

Womboldt will continue to attend City Council meetings to address the issues of the community.

“It’s going to be a long process, we’ve been doing this for 18 months,” said Womboldt. “It’s an important issue and we’re going to stick with it.”