East Lansing City Council votes against medical marijuana dispensaries

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Jamie Webb, lobbyist, East Lansing, City Council, public comment, medical marijuana

Chloe Peter

Jamie Webb, a lobbyist, was among those who voiced concerns about Ordinance 1416a Tuesday night. She said she hopes future proposals allow for smokeable and vapable forms of medical marijuana.

Unlikely coalitions formed as the East Lansing City Council voted down an ordinance Tuesday night that would have allowed medical marijuana dispensaries within city limits.

Ordinance 1416a was the subject of public comment and councilmember discussion for more than two hours before ultimately failing on a 3-2 vote. Had the ordinance passed, it would have established five districts in the city provisioning centers could operate in. Sales would be restricted to non-smokable and non-inhalable forms of marijuana for medical purposes and businesses would be required to donate a portion of profits to local nonprofits.

Medical marijuana was legalized in Michigan in 2008, but allowing provisioning centers within city or township limits is up to local governments. Mayor Mark Meadows said the legislation was introduced this year to establish precedent for the city in its regulation of recreational marijuana, should the issue pass on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The ordinance, originally proposed in January, had been the subject of discussion and amendment throughout the year which culminated Tuesday night. The 10 members of the public who spoke all supported medical marijuana, but had concerns about the ordinance.

Joe Neller is the executive vice president of government affairs and business development for Green Peak Innovations, a cannabis cultivation company, and was among those who addressed the council. “We’re interested in being in East Lansing, so we’ll work within the context of the ordinance, regardless of how it turns out, but that’s part of the reason I’m here. I’d like to speak to some suggested, friendly amendments,” he said before the meeting. “The prohibition to smokeable and vapeable products, I’d like to see that changed to allow at least vapable products, which would include some flower sales, because you can vape flower. I’d also like to see them expand or add an additional overlay district.”

Jamie Webb, an associate lobbyist at Dunaskiss Consulting and Development echoed Neller’s concerns about types of cannabis allowed under the ordinance. “Why is there the need to regulate what can and cannot be sold in (provisioning centers)?” she asked council members. “What makes medical marijuana effective is that there are so many unique delivery options for patients to choose from. What works for some, may not work for others… Essentially, what East Lansing would be doing by implementing a provisioning center that cannot sell smokable or inhalable marijuana is restricting not only a provisioning center’s ability to conduct business in the way that they see fit, but more importantly, restricting a patient’s access to medical marijuana products that they already know work for them.”

Councilmember Aaron Stephens said these concerns about restrictions in the ordinance led him to vote against it. “I am very much for medical marijuana in the City of East Lansing,” he said. “I thought the way that this was being proposed would not be helpful to patients. I’m referring specifically to a clause that would ban the use of inhalants or anything smokeable. The reason for that is very, very simple, and it is that this is medicine and if we are going to treat it as medicine it is not our job as lawmakers to decide what and what not a patient can take.”

Councilmember Shanna Draheim voiced similar concerns, but ultimately voted in favor of the proposal, along with Mayor Mark Meadows. Mayor Pro Tem Erik Altmann and Councilmember Ruth Beier joined Stephens in voting no, though for different reasons; Altmann said he was in favor of more restrictive regulation.

Stephens said Tuesday’s vote was among the hardest he has had to cast, but hopes the issue will be revisited.

Webb also said he hopes to see East Lansing readdress medical marijuana.“I’m kinda excited to see where it goes from here. Hopefully now they start back over with a clean slate and take into account what the residents have said, what the councilmembers who were opposed to the ordinance said.” She said she would like to to see less restrictive zoning and limits on the types of cannabis in future proposals.

Full video of the vote and discussion is available on the City of East Lansing’s website.