2018-01-10 / News

Public hearing on medical marijuana Thursday

810-452-2640 • jhogan@mihomepaper.com

LAPEER — The Lapeer Planning Commission will hold a public hearing Thursday (Jan. 11) evening on an ordinance to regulate where medical marijuana businesses can operate in the city. Citizen input will be heard, after which the planning commission will likely vote on whether to approve the document it has been working on for months.

The public hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the second floor commission chambers at Lapeer City Hall.

Last April, the Lapeer City Commission voted to “opt in” to allow medical marijuana businesses to operate in the city, and in August voted to allow for all license types — grower, processor, secure transporter, provisioning center and safety compliance facility licenses. Planning officials have been working to work out the details to where such operations can be established in Lapeer.

Before the ordinance can be implemented it must also be approved by the Lapeer City Commission.

The state Dept. Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) on Dec. 15 began accepting applications for medical marijuana facility licenses.

The Lapeer and Michigan discussion about medical marijuana and the possibility of a ballot proposal next November about legalizing recreational use of pot comes against a backdrop of uncertainty at the federal level.

The Trump administration says federal prosecutors will begin to more aggressively enforce marijuana laws, even in states where marijuana is now legal. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (USDA) classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug and defines it in the category as “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Some examples of Schedule I drugs are heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and methaqualone.

The Justice Department, under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is planning to roll back a policy instituted during the Obama administration that discouraged those prosecutions. It’s not yet clear what specific type of enforcement the government is planning.

That has been a concern expressed by law local enforcement, that despite the wish of the people in 2008 who passed the medical marijuana ballot proposal that in the eyes of the federal government marijuana remains an illegal substance.

In December, Rowe Professional Services planning consultants Doug Piggott and Caitlyn McGoldrick sought additional clarification from the planning commission as they work to draft the ordinance language in time for Thursday’s hearing.

The issue of marijuana odor, a concern of some commissioners, was addressed. The city will pursue ordinance language that states specific steps a business owner must take to minimize odor — such as installation of a carbon filtration system.

The only state restriction for any of the five business options is that a grow operation can only be allowed in areas zoned industrial or agriculture. Lapeer currently has no agriculturally-zoned parcels, but maintains several industrial parks on either end of the city.

Safety compliance facilities that provide safety and quality testing of medical marijuana products was agreed to be allowed in industrial areas, areas zoned for offices, general business including along Main Street (M-24).

Provision centers (retail outlets) will not be allowed downtown due to buffer zones the city planners have adopted, but can be located in areas zoned for general business.

At Thursday’s public hearing, the planning commission will accept comment but it is not an open discussion with officials.

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