2017-12-31 / Insight

Lapeer officials spent much of 2017 grappling medical marijuana plans

BY JEFF HOGAN
810-452-2640 • jhogan@mihomepaper.com


Lapeer attorney and medical marijuana advocate Bernard Jocuns addressed the panel and Lapeer city officials during a workshop session held at the Lapeer County EMS headquarters in Elba Township. Concerned the city may prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries in the city he asked, “Where do you expect them (patients) to get their medicine?” 
Photo by Jeff Hogan Lapeer attorney and medical marijuana advocate Bernard Jocuns addressed the panel and Lapeer city officials during a workshop session held at the Lapeer County EMS headquarters in Elba Township. Concerned the city may prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries in the city he asked, “Where do you expect them (patients) to get their medicine?” Photo by Jeff Hogan LAPEER — In a matter of weeks it will be become clear where medical marijuana businesses can operate in the city of Lapeer.

On Jan. 11 at 6:30 p.m. at Lapeer City Hall, the Lapeer Planning Commission will hold a public hearing to solicit citizen input before it adopts ordinances to regulate where, and to some extent how, medical marijuana businesses will be allowed to operate. Following adoption of ordinances by the planning commission the document must then be approved by the Lapeer City Commission before they will go into effect.

Last April the Lapeer City Commission voted to “opt in” to allow some type of medical marijuana businesses to operate in the city, and then in August the planning commission agreed to permit all five business license options allowed under state law in the city to include: provisioning centers (retail dispensary locations), grow operations, transporters, processors and safety compliance facilities.

In the ensuing months, the planning commission identified eight different zoning districts in the city as it mapped out locations where medical marijuana can businesses in the city.

In December 2016, the Medical Marijuana Facility Licensing Act, or MMFLA, bill was passed in the Michigan legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Snyder. The bill became effective on Dec. 15. Since then growers, processors, transporters, provisioning centers and safety compliance facilities within the medical marijuana industry have been permitted to apply for licenses under the act.

Enforced under the Dept. of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs and the Medical Marijuana Licensing Board, the aim of this act is to protect patients and to implement fair and efficient regulations.

Lapeer planning officials in 2017 established several buffer zones between medical marijuana operations and the rest of the community. Medical marijuana businesses cannot be located within 1,000 feet of a school, 500 feet from a commercial pre-school or daycare, 200 feet from a city park and 500 feet from a federal building.

The city’s planning commission follows the city’s Master Plan as a guide to where and how development occurs in the city, including zoning ordinances that identify where certain kind of businesses can locate in Lapeer.

Under the new state law, grow facilities can operate only in areas zoned industrial or agricultural. Through zoning and ordinances the city can steer and determine what sort of business activity it wants in commercial, residential and industrial neighborhoods. Lapeer no longer has any land zoned for agriculture.

Due to the buffers, there is nowhere in the downtown area where a medical marijuana business can operate.

The city did not put any limit on the number of medical marijuana businesses that can operate in the city.

In addition to Lapeer, the Village of Almont has opted in to allow medical marijuana businesses in their community. Mayfield Township officials may also permit medical pot as a developer has come forward with a $19.2-million proposal to convert the former Durakon Industries plant on M-24 into a grow facility.

Michigan voters in 2008 overwhelmingly supported a citizen-led initiative in favor of the sale and distribution of medical marijuana in the state, but ever since there has been a great deal of confusion as to what is permitted and how communities can regulate the drug.

Clouding the discussion about medical marijuana, according to some officials and skeptical opponents, is that the federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance (under the Controlled Substances Act). States that allow marijuana for medical use or legalize recreational use remain in defiance of federal law.

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