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Medical marijuana dispensaries go unregulated

Posted: 8:10 AM, Feb 09, 2016
Updated: 2016-02-09 08:10:49-05

Nancy Mahlow has lived in Lansing for more than 30 years. She's the president of the Eastside Neighborhood Organization.

She knows the city. And she doesn't like what's happening to it.

"If you drive down Cedar Street or MLK it's almost like one right after the other. I think one of the corners there's like one on all four corners. It's ridiculous. It's out of control," Mahlow said.

She's talking about medical marijuana dispensaries. She and others from the East Side wrote a letter to the Lansing City Council asking them to do something about the proliferation on unregulated and unlicensed shops in the city.

"What is that saying to other people that come to our city," Mahlow, who says the number of shops is probably driving away business and possible residents, said. "When you're driving down main corridors and all you're seeing is these facilities."

The city has a licensing ordinance on the books that requires dispensaries to obtain a yearly license. Applicants must be in good financial standing and pass a background check. Shops have to have insurance and can't be within 1,000 feet of schools, day cares, and drug rehab centers.

But no one is enforcing the ordinance. The city clerk hasn't issued licenses.

"A number of people have been asking if they're illegal, then why aren't you shutting them down?" Councilperson Carol Wood said. "When we ask that of the city attorney's office, part of the answer that we receive back is that it's the state that's saying that they're illegal. But the state isn't closing them. So it's this round robin of not knowing who's watching the hen house."

Wood says members of city council are asking the same questions.

"We need to tackle this. It's something that the public's been demanding, it's something that members of council have been asking the same questions," Wood said. "And now it's to take the bull by the horns and move forward with it."

The first step for that is a meeting between Wood and the Public Safety Committee and the City Attorney's office Friday at 3:30 p.m.

Wood says they will discuss the current ordinance. "Are there deficiencies in it? Do we need to make changes? If there aren't deficiencies in it, then can we move forward and start getting the clerk to start issuing licenses?" Wood said.

She emphasized that the city council is not trying to shut down dispensaries. It's just trying to regulate them, so they can be safer for the community and for patients.