Medical marijuana laws in Michigan have a tendency to change rapidly. For example, it looked like Lansing might be ready to accept applications for medical marijuana facilities, but now the process has been placed on hold. If you’re among those confused by the state of medical marijuana law in Lansing, you’re not alone. Here’s where we stand now.
In September 2017, Lansing City Council passed an ordinance to allow medical marihuana facilities under Michigan’s Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act (“MMFLA”). An ordinance is specifically required for a municipality to “opt into” the MMFLA and indicate which type of facilities and how many are authorized to operate in the jurisdiction. In light of Lansing’s current situation with more than 70 dispensaries operating in the City, the ordinance passed by City Council that capped the number of dispensaries at 25 was met with mixed reviews.
However, Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope released form applications and was tentatively ready to begin accepting applications for medical marijuana facilities on Monday, October 9th. Before the City Clerk could accept any applications though, an organization called “Let Lansing Vote” submitted a referendum petition of over 4,000 signatures to call for a referendum on Lansing City Council’s September 2017 Ordinance. The City Clerk has to review the signatures for accuracy and validity within 15 days.
If they are valid, then Lansing City Council will have 30 days to either (1) repeal the ordinance or (2) submit the ordinance for a vote by the voters of the City of Lansing, which would take place no earlier than May 2018. In addition, the referendum means that the September 2017 Ordinance is suspended from taking effect until one of these actions is taken.
While the City Clerk’s Office and City Council figure out what to do with the September 2017 Ordinance, new interest has been generated into an almost forgotten ordinance passed by City Council in 2011 that was intended to regulate marijuana dispensaries. The 2011 Ordinance was passed by City Council at a time when there was uncertainty in the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (“MMMA”) as to whether dispensaries would be permitted. In 2013, the Michigan Supreme Court weighed in on the matter and ruled that dispensaries were not permitted under the MMMA. As a result, the 2011 ordinance fell into obscurity until recently.
Now, there has been a push for City Council to take up revising to the 2011 ordinance. City Council has scheduled a public hearing on this issue for October 30th. Keep in mind that 4 of the 8 City Council seats will be decided in the November 7, 2017 election, which means there is a possibility for a substantial shift in Lansing politics. Studies have shown that marijuana has been effective in combating the opioid epidemic, and several major pharmaceutical industries are working to develop marijuana-based painkillers. We will be following Lansing and all medical marijuana law related issues closely and keep you updated.
An associate attorney with Grewal Law PLLC in Okemos, Michigan, John Fraser focuses on general litigation, criminal defense, cannabis law, and appellate law. John is also an adjunct professor of law at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School where he teaches a course on Medical Marijuana and the Law.