Altmann Proposes Another Try on Marijuana Provisioning

Saturday, November 3, 2018, 8:31 am
By: 
Alice Dreger

Above: Curious Book Shop, which one company is looking to replace with a medical marijuana shop.

In another surprise move, City Council will revisit and possibly vote on the allowance of medical marijuana sales in East Lansing next week. That means Council may also decide where retail locations could be established.

Correspondence to Council released late yesterday shows that one marijuana sales company, represented by local attorney George Brookover, is interested in replacing Curious Book Shop downtown with a provisioning center.

The agenda for next Wednesday’s meeting, set to start at 7 p.m., is showing “Reconsideration of Ordinance 1416a.” That’s the long-debated draft law aimed at determining where in the City’s borders medical marijuana might be sold at “provisioning centers,” commonly called dispensaries.

After over two hours of discussion, City Council ended up last Tuesday night with a complex version of 1416a that only two members supported, namely Mayor Mark Meadows and Ruth Beier.

But now Council is set to discuss yet another version of 1416a, this one just submitted for consideration by Mayor Pro Tem Erik Altmann. Altmann’s proposed version was made public only late yesterday.

Altmann has previously said that, while he hopes marijuana will be federally legalized, he thinks the establishment of medical marijuana sales in East Lansing is too risky, both from the point of view of possible lawsuits and quality of life. Last week he also expressed frustration with what he suggested was a general pretense about “medical” marijuana, noting that industry promoters sometimes call sales personnel “bud-tenders,” a take-off on “bartenders.”

But now Altmann has submitted what’s labeled “Mayor Pro Tem’s suggested replacement for 1416a as voted on 10-30-2018,” which would allow – at least in theory – for the sale of medical marijuana in East Lansing.

This version of the ordinance maintains a prohibition on selling any marijuana products “that can be smoked or inhaled as a means of consumption,” a prohibition supported last week by Altmann, Meadows, and Beier.

But it also includes some changes to the version of the law that Altmann ultimately voted against, including now requiring “operators of the medical marijuana provisioning center facility” to “provide an annual donation in the amount of 1% from its operations or $5,000, whichever amount is greater,” to a nonprofit organization “largely benefiting the residents of East Lansing and organized and operated exclusively for purposes of improving the lives of people with low to moderate income, conserving or improving natural resources, or preventing cruelty to children or animals.”

Altmann’s new version also requires at least 1,000 feet between the lot lines of any provisioning center and another, and 1,000 feet between the lot lines of any provisioning center and any liquor store.

Altmann’s new version also lays out where provisioning centers could in theory be located, including:

  • Properties zoned B2 (“Retail Sales Business”) within the City limits that are south of Michigan Avenue and west of Brody Road.
  • Properties north of Abbey Road “as extended to U.S. 127,” west of Coolidge Road, east of U.S. 127, and south of the northern boundary line of the OIP (Office Industrial Park) District extended to 127.
  • Properties bounded by Park Lake Road, Haslett Road, and Merritt Road, near the new Costco.
  • Properties south of Grand River Avenue between Cedar Street and Hagadorn Road – the area known as the East Village and containing The Hub project, now under construction (shown below).

A packet of correspondence released with Wednesday’s agenda also shows communications from East Lansing residents expressing specific concerns about provisioning centers being located near their homes along with communications from marijuana businesses looking to locate here.

One letter from Brookover, dated August 20 of this year, says that his client, Windsor Township OG LLC, is under contract “to purchase the building located at 307 East Grand River Avenue which currently houses Curious Used Books.”

The letter continues, “My client is prepared to totally renovate the subject property in order to provide a professionally designed and operated medical site.” The following illustration is provided:

Neither the version of 1416a voted on last week nor the version proposed by Altmann now would allow for a provisioning center at that location, or in the former Cosi restaurant next door, where another company had expressed interest in locating a provisioning center.

Owners of condo apartments in the building that includes the Cosi space have said they do not want a retail marijuana operation located there. But as Council revisits the issue, decisions about possible locations could change without much warning.

This week’s Council meeting is on Wednesday because the election is on Tuesday. That election includes a statewide proposal to legalize the use of recreational marijuana. It is not yet clear what impact passage of that measure could have on East Lansing’s ability to regulate marijuana within the City limits.

There will be no public hearing on this issue at Wednesday’s meeting, but persons wishing to speak to this can do so during the public comment period near the beginning of the meeting. Correspondence can also be emailed to City Council by writing to council@cityofeastlansing.com.

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