Regulating medical marijuana dispensaries is no easy feat.
Council member Carol Wood has been working on it for years. "Sometimes it feels as if you're going two steps forward and three steps back," Wood said. "But the importance is getting it right."
The Lansing City Council, especially its Public Safety Committee, is struggling now with putting together a licensing ordinance that gives the city the power to regulate pot shops, without licensing places that don't follow state law.
"Whenever you talk about regulations there's always two, plus 5,000 more, sides to the story that you have to deal with," Council Member Kathie Dunbar said. "It's a juggling act." It's not just state and local law the council has to think about. Community members, business owners, and patients have interests the committee has to consider as well, Dunbar said.
"We do need to regulate, but we also need to be concerned about the rights of the owners of theses businesses to operate in a commercial setting that is viable for them," she said.
The committee decided to ask Deputy City Attorney Joseph Abood to come up with a possible framework for a new licensing ordinance. It also asked Abood to look into putting a moratorium on any new dispensaries, per a Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce request. The idea drew mixed reactions.
"It would be reasonable to put in place a moratorium temporarily. It doesn't mean they're shutting anybody down, what it means is it's a pause to give the city time to determine how they're going to license the existing medical marijuana centers that we have," Robin Schneider, who attended the meeting and works for a patients' rights group, said.
Dustin Hidey spoke at the meeting, and says dispensaries are necessary for patients to safely meet up with caregivers. "Where do you meet with that person to have that transfer of medicine?" he said. "We don't have any place like that right now other than dispensaries."
Abood said he will bring ideas for both to a meeting March 11.