The Lansing Planning Board met the evening of Wednesday August 4 to review the issue of medical marijuana. The board’s main topic of discussion was a proposed amendment to the current zoning ordinance concerning medical marijuana dispensaries being operated in residential neighborhoods.
The current law allows medical marijuana caregivers to operate out of their homes, provided they comply with several restrictions. One of several new restrictions which was presented by the planning board would prohibit medical marijuana caregiver facilities from operating within 1000 feet of a school, playground, place of religious worship and substance abuse prevention, treatment or rehabilitation facility. Caregiver facilities would also be prohibited within 100 feet of any youth center, public swimming pool or video arcade.
Another restriction which was presented would prohibit unnatural light at caregiver facilities. The board stated that this amendment would require any excess energy or excess heat generation resulting from marijuana growth to be reviewed by the board of zoning and appeals as well as the fire marshal.
“This law makes no sense,” said Lansing resident Christopher Caszatt in his appeal to the planning board. “Why should [the city] force me to shut off my lights, when they don’t intrude on anybody? They haven’t even done their research on this issue.”
Other concerned residents chose to express their opinions about the proposed restrictions as well.
“The act of helping sick people will not affect church services, will not affect counseling sessions for recovering addicts, will not affect students learning in schools,” said Lansing resident Isaac Francisco. “A caregiver is only able to provide this medicine to sick people with the recommendation from their doctor, and have registered with the state. A caregiver is explicitly forbidden to provide this medicine to anyone else.”
However, concerns about the City Rescue Mission, located on Michigan Avenue, were quickly brought into the discussion.
“We have two dispensaries popping up on Michigan Avenue. We have one literally next door,” said Mark Criss, Executive Director of the City Rescue Mission of Lansing. “We have a substance abuse rehabilitation center on Michigan Ave., and you see the conflict of interest. We have thousands of people who come through the ministry that are homeless and a fair percentage of them have addictions to drugs and alcohol; a fair percentage of them have addictions to marijuana. My concern is the regulation of the dispensaries.”
Several residents present at the meeting were themselves medical marijuana caregivers and patients.
Lansing resident Robin Schneider, present on behalf of the Capitol City Compassion Club, chose to share her personal experience with the planning board.
“Some of the city council comments have been insulting, because for a lot of us this is a health choice,” Schneider said. “I’m not saying all pharmaceutical medications are bad, but a lot of them are terrible. I have been free from all pharmaceutical medications since December; I used to be in a wheelchair. I had to take oxycontin and vicodin and they were killing me, and I’ve been free from all of that. All I have to do is rub a little lotion on my back at night and I sleep like a baby, and I get up and I don’t have a pharmaceutical hangover.”
The Lansing Planning Board did not make a final decision on the proposed amendments to the medical marijuana zoning ordinance, choosing to postpone the decision until a later date.