2017-07-16 / News

Lapeer officials begin task to regulate medical marijuana businesses in the city

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Lapeer planning consultant Scott Kree was before city officials Thursday evening. It was the first meeting regarding the regulation of medical marijuana businesses in Lapeer since the city commission agreed in April to permit some form of the budding industry to operate within the confines of the city. 
Photo by Jeff Hogan Lapeer planning consultant Scott Kree was before city officials Thursday evening. It was the first meeting regarding the regulation of medical marijuana businesses in Lapeer since the city commission agreed in April to permit some form of the budding industry to operate within the confines of the city. Photo by Jeff Hogan LAPEER — Tom Schnell spent the better part of 10 years trying to find a way to cope with severe chronic pain. He died March 4, though his wife told the Lapeer Planning Commission on Thursday the last 11 days of his life were pain free — thanks to the use of medical marijuana.

Donna DeWitt-Schnell of Elba Township attended Thursday’s meeting on behalf and in memory of her late husband, who was 77 at the time of his death. She wanted to remind Lapeer planning officials why it’s important they find a way to permit medical marijuana facilities in the community. She wanted the nine-member planning commission to hear a real-time, real-world personal experience related to the use of medical marijuana as they initiated discussion about how the City of Lapeer is going to regulate five possible license applications prospective entrepreneurs may pursue in the county seat.

“His body was worn out by what was legally prescribed. He come home and was in hospice,” said DeWitt-Schnell. “There are people in this community who are so negatively impacted by all the legal drugs like Vicodin and OxyContin that my husband used. But they ruined his body,” she commented. “The last days of his life were without pain. My husband died in peace, and it was because of medical marijuana.”

Wes Wickham, a Lapeer Township resident, was also in attendance at Thursday’s meeting.

“I’m not a resident of your lovely community, but I wanted to be here tonight. I’m on Vicodin right now for pain, but I don’t want to become addicted to it. I would like to be able to use medical marijuana. It has to be available for old folks like me. I’m not going to drive to Flint.”

Ever since the Lapeer City Commission in April authorized the city to opt in to state law to allow some form of medical marijuana business to operate in the city, planning office manager Kim Hodge and planning consultant Scott Kree said on an average weekday they get about four telephone calls from people inquiring about what it would take to operate a grow facility or a provisioning (retail) center in Lapeer.

License type classifications permitted by state law include: provisioning centers (retail dispensary locations), grow operations, transport operators, processors and safety compliance facilities (authorized to test marijuana for pesticides and dosage strength, etc.).

“This is all about how we’re going to regulate it,” said Kree. “As your planner, I don’t have a horse in this race. “We have to determine if you will allow them in certain districts.”

Seeking input from the planning commission on how they want him to proceed Kree added, “We’re all in this together. This shouldn’t hinder anyone who wants to operate in the city.”

Commissioner Dave Sommerville cut to the chase, “What are we here for tonight? What am I going to vote on?”

Kree replied, “Nothing, not tonight. This is just the starting point. I need direction in what you want to do.”

Effective Dec. 15, people can apply to the State of Michigan to operate one of the five (or multiples) medical marijuana businesses in communities like Lapeer that opted in to new state laws signed last December by Gov. Rick Snyder.

Meanwhile, the state Dept. of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) is working to define some of the particulars to the new medical marijuana laws and local municipalities are drafting zoning and regulatory ordinances to manage the legislation in their communities.

Sommerville’s question, said city manager and planning commissioner Dale Kerbyson, perfectly reflected the state of flux the city finds itself in. It has agreed to allow some degree of medical marijuana business in Lapeer, yet officials need to better understand just what are the legal parameters of each classification and how, or if, they should be permitted in the city.

‘Technically, we’re starting from scratch here,” said Kree. “Unlike some communities, Lapeer currently has no medical marijuana businesses.” Kree brought several ordinance examples other communities have drafted for the commissioners to review, while they also had copies of a letter by city attorney Mike Nolan that noted his concerns and observations for their consideration.

Kree told planning officials that once the state is notified an applicant has expressed interest to license a medical marijuana business in a municipality that community will be contacted, and then the municipality has 90 days to consider the application.

Medical marijuana grow facilities, according to the state, can only be allowed in areas zoned for agriculture or industry. Lapeer has no agriculturally zoned parcels within city limits, though there are several industrial parks in the city. Applicants may apply to grow 500, 1,000 or 1,500 marijuana plants in a grow facility.

The bigger question is where Lapeer officials will allow a provisioning center (retail outlet where customers may purchase medical marijuana and associated products). “Provisioning centers, that’s where the money is made,” said Kree. “Is it appropriate to have it downtown or on Main Street at Rite Aid? Basically the provision center is the pharmacy of this product.”

Mayor Bill Sprague, also a planning commissioner, said, “Our task is do we want all five in the city, and where do we want to allow them?”

To that end, the planning commission directed Kree for the July meeting to come prepared with an overlay map that will illustrate the city’s current zoning districts as defined by the city’s planning master plan and to show proximity to schools, churches, parks and residences. That will provide planning officials a better idea where they might be able to allow one or all five of the license options.

Planning chairman Joe Black asked if anyone on the commission was opposed to any of the five possible medical marijuana uses in the city. None was expressed.

The planning commission, regardless if it has any other business, will meet every month going forward to work on drafting medical marijuana regulations. “We have to get it ready for adoption by December … It should be as close to print as possible by Dec. 15,” said Kree.

Planning commission meetings are held on the second Thursday of each month at 6:30 p.m. in the Commission Chambers on the second floor of Lapeer City Hall at Calhoun and West Nepessing streets.

Lapeer Planning Commission

LAPEER — The Lapeer Planning Commission consists of nine (9) members:

• Chairman Joe Black

• Vice chairperson Jennell RaCosta

• Bill Sprague (Mayor)

• Dale Kerbyson (City Manager)

• Catherine Bostick-Tullius

• Ed Jamison

• Dave Sommerville

• Anne Shenck

• Austin Kelly

The duties of the Planning Commission are: to conduct site plan reviews of new businesses; review special land use applications; craft and adopt master plans; to recommend action to the City Commission regarding Zoning Ordinance amendments; to review annual Capital Improvement Plan; and other matters related to the physical development or growth of the city.

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