Lansing – A proposed residential medical marijuana ordinance needs further review and could be changed several times, based how City Council’s Committee on Public Safety meeting went Thursday afternoon at City Hall.
Representatives from the city, Lansing Board of Water & Light, the medical marijuana community and neighborhood groups all appeared to leave the meeting with unanswered questions about a proposed ordinance that was made public last week by Mayor Virg Bernero. Some of the over 30 in attendance clearly left confused.
“I think we all have a little bit of homework to do,” said At-Large Council Member Carol Wood, the committee’s chair.
The committee is scheduled to meet again 3:30 p.m. Dec. 2 on the 10th floor of City Hall. That public meeting could determine whether the proposed ordinance, aimed to enhance the city’s current home occupation ordinance, should have stricter standards.
The proposed residential marijuana ordinance, in its current form, would require owners of homes that grow medical marijuana to register with the city if they use more than 5,000 kilowatt hours of electricity – intermittent or continuous. Owners of homes that don’t grow marijuana would also have to register with the city if they exceed the monthly kilowatt limit.
City Attorney Jim Smiertka stressed at the meeting that any changes to the city’s current home occupation ordinance would help bring clarity to public safety concerns.
“We’re trying to understand how we can best help the neighbors,” Smiertka said.
Dick Peffley, BWL’s general manger, shared at the meeting that there has been fires in city homes that used electricity loads he deems excessive. Peffley said it’s rare to see a home use 5,000 kilowatt hours unless occupants are using several lights for marijuana grow operations, have tanning beds or other setups that sap extreme amounts of power.
Peffley added that retail buildings, like “ma and pa party stores” or larger businesses are typically the only places in Lansing that use 5,000 kilowatt hours or more on a regular basis. The difference with those buildings compared to homes is that they have electricity service with BWL that can handle such a demand.
Since 5,000 kilowatt usage or more in residential homes is rare, Peffley suggested the threshold for the proposed ordinance could be lowered – if further research shows it’s needed.
“We would support anything that gives us some teeth to stop (excessive) usage,” Peffley said.
The BWL’s officials have yet to calculate the kilowatt usage for homes that were the sites of recent fires. Peffley said the city-owned utility only tracks the average kilowatt usage of a home accumulated over month-long period. But BWL is expected to get technology in about three years that tracks a home’s intermittent or continuous use during shorter periods, Peffley said.
Smiertka confirmed Thursday the proposed residential ordinance Bernero made public last week is the same one the City Attorney’s Office has been working on since July.
If a home exceeds 5,000 kilowatt hours a month and fails to register with the city, the proposed ordinance would allow the city to issue a civil infraction or possibly issue a search warrant if it poses public safety concerns.
In addition to electricity usage, there was plenty of discussion at the meeting about how the city could respond to public complaints of odors that are emitted from home-grown medical marijuana operations.
Deputy City Attorney Mark Dotson shared research he found about devices that can detect marijuana odor. That’s when At-Large Council Member Kathie Dunbar said – somewhat jokingly – that the city could have volunteers become “nasal rangers” so they can monitor smells in their neighborhoods.
Dunbar referred to Dotson’s mention of a somewhat megaphone-shaped device called a Nasal Ranger. The device, when pressed to the nose, can detect marijuana odors. It is being used by Denver city officials to monitor public nuisance matters pertaining to marijuana.
Dunbar also said in the meeting it would probably be in the city’s best interest to do a better job spelling out what it intends to enforce if officials add to the current home occupation ordinance.
“Let’s call it was it is,” said Dunbar, referring to proposed home registrations and excessive electricity usage. “It’s a (residential) medical marijuana ordinance, not one for small businesses.”
Jackson resident Kelly Brown, 39, attended the meeting to support fellow medical marijuana patients in Lansing. She is concerned that a residential ordinance passed in Lansing could lead to a domino effect throughout the state.
Brown said she and her husband, also a medical marijuana patient, follow state law which allows them to each grow 12 plants in their home. Brown said registered patients shouldn’t have to register their homes with the city because it’s “an attack on the medical community.”
Under state law, medical marijuana patients and caregivers registered with the state can cultivate marijuana plants in their own homes. The Michigan Medical Marihuana Act of 2008 permits registered caregivers to grow up to 72 plants in their home or a facility. The state allows up to 60 of those plants to be grown for five state-registered patients.
“If they want an ordinance to limit caregivers, then that’s what they should do,” Brown said of Lansing officials. “They’ve stood up and said they don’t want it in (Lansing’s) homes, they don’t want it in their neighborhoods.”
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Full Article: Residential Marijuana Ordinance Needs More Work, Officials Say
Author: Eric Lacy
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Website: Lansing State Journal