As Lansing grapples over laws, marijuana endeavors take root


Lansing officials who are drafting a medical marijuana ordinance for the city meet again this afternoon. As proposed regulations are discussed, compassion clubs and marijuana dispensaries are moving into commercial spaces.

In the three weeks since Lansing officials unveiled the first draft of a medical marijuana ordinance, cannabis care organizations and entrepreneurs have begun to move into spaces on Michigan Avenue. Robin Schneider is President of the Capital City Compassion Club, which already has 100 members. She stands in front of a vacant, commercial space at 2010 East Michigan that she and her fellow caregivers and patients plan to move into by June 1. Schneider says the caregiver/patient relationship often works better outside of the home.

"If it's a new situation where you're looking for a new caregiver or maybe a caregiver you're not as familiar with or a patient you're not as familiar with, it's better to do it in a designated, safe area, you know, where there's other members around for make sure, you know, the transaction is smooth .(And) some people might not want to do a transaction in front of their children."

Two blocks east is a more commercial endeavor. Before opening this shop, Ryan Basore sold insurance for 12 years. He's pleased with the first two week's business at Capitol City Caregivers, a dispensary selling 21 varieties of medical cannabis.

"We got shiskaberry, White Lightning, Big Bud, Lemon Kush, Mr. Freeze, LA Woman...."

Dispensaries like these have been around for years in California. They buy a caregiver's excess medication, then resell it. But in Michigan, the statute neither calls for nor prohibits dispensaries. Municipalities across the state are struggling to clarify their legal status. For now, it appears Lansing will allow them if they contact the city, locate in a commercial zone and be subject to background checks. City attorney Brig Smith says the new endeavors are initiating contact with the city.

"So far, so good," he says. "It really has been a collaborative effort. We've been working with the dispensary owners, their attorneys....They're reaching out to us, saying 'OK, Here are our concerns. What are your concerns and let's try to figure out a way together, to craft an ordinance that makes a lot of sense.' "

Smith says the city draft has not changed since being unveiled three weeks ago. But there are still some unresolved issues including security and determining who is responsible for plant counts and the quality of medication. Lansing's Public Safety Committee meets again at 12:45 pm at City Hall to talk about these issues.

Melissa Ingells: And Mark Bashore joins me now with more on the medical marijuana issue. Hi Mark.

Mark Bashore: Hi Melissa.

MI: Sounds like a lot is happening despite the confusion over the statute.

MB: There's a great deal happening on a number of fronts. Medical marijuana IS a legal commodity and the inevitable commercial forces are in play and you certainly see this with the dispensaries. And because of the statute is so unclear in so many areas, attorneys are everywhere. Interestingly, I think Ryan Basore, the Lansing dispensary owner, captured the sense of confusion out there is in a comment he made to me last week. Here's what he said.

"Really this stuff is happening so fast, I mean day to day. I'd say one day of what's going on this world, in this industry is the equivalent of weeks in my old life, so it's just changing so fast, trying to stay on top of, just making sure the state's gonna keep the people's best interests. That's the main thing."

MB: That remark really captured the chaotic quality of the moment, in large part because people are getting involved in an entrepreneurial way.

MI: And the city's public safety committee meets again today?

MB: That's right, at 12:45. Maybe a little less chaos after today.