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Lapeer OKs, yet limits medical pot (From 2-21 County Press)

Last-minute amendments alter ordinance
810-452-2640 •


Mayor Bill Sprague (right) expressed frustration by an amendment to a proposed ordinance made by Commissioner Dan Osentoski (left) that restricted the number of medical marijuana dispensaries that may operate in Lapeer to six. Photos by Jeff Hogan

LAPEER — No more than six medical marijuana provisioning centers (dispensaries) will be allowed to operate in the city of Lapeer, and none will be allowed in the downtown central business district.
With those two amendments introduced by Commissioner Dan Osentoski, the Lapeer City Commission voted 3-2 Monday evening to approve an ordinance to regulate the operation of five license types of medical marijuana business permitted by the State of Michigan. Monday’s vote concluded nearly 10 months of review and consideration by city officials after Lapeer “opted in” to allow medical marijuana in the city last April.

Lapeer City Commissioner A. Wayne Bennett voted No on Monday to approve medical marijuana ordinances in the city, stating his opposition is because the federal government classifies marijuana as a Substance 1 illegal drug. At his right is Commissioner Dan Osentoski who introduced an amendment to limit the number of dispensaries to six.

Voting for the medical marijuana ordinance drafted by the city’s planning commission were Commissioners Osentoski, Catherine Bostick- Tullius and Debbie Marquardt, while opposed were Commissioners Joshua Atwood and A. Wayne Bennett, who cited his inability to separate from the fact that the federal government classifies marijuana as a Substance 1 drug like it does heroin and other narcotics.
“Personally I’m not against marijuana as a pain killer, but I don’t have the money if the U.S. Justice Department choses to sue me for supporting this … Because of the oath that I and the rest of us took to honor the Constitution and God I’m not willing to go to jail.”
Bennett added, “I do not want it (marijuana) until the federal government makes it legal.”
Atwood read a prepared statement he wrote to articulate his opposition. “I want to make this perfectly clear; my opposition to MMFLA (Medical Marijuana Facility Licensing Act) is not based on me being a Republican, a Democrat or a Christian. I am looking at this ordinance with the eyes of a husband, a father, a son, a brother, an uncle, a small business owner, and as elected city commissioner. That being said, I do not judge nor think differently of those who are using medical marijuana. As stated before, I see its medical benefits.”
He continued, “I strongly believe that this ordinance does come with a certain level of risk to the City of Lapeer…I am voting the way the individuals who voted for me would want me to vote. I understand there will be those who disagree with me. That is perfectly fine. I would rather be wrong now then right later.”
Osentoski’s amendments were the result of research conducted by the newly-elected commissioner.

“I spent the last two weeks interviewing city officials, longtime city residents and the planning commission. I also reviewed 60 other city ordinances. The majority had limits.
No one had a good reason as to why unlimited was good for the city … Some wanted to say it will work itself out, but that’s not good enough for me.”
He continued, “We have 2,500 cardholders in the county and six (dispensaries) can fill those prescriptions. We don’t need to be medical marijuana hub of the region. We need to move slowly and can expand if it’s deemed good for the city. It’s not about the money, because the state gets the lion’s share. Why are people investing before the vote? We are only city in the area opting in and everyone wants a piece. Are they in it for the city? Of course not. I am the one that initiated the limit on provisioning and feel it’s best for the city.”
Mayor Bill Sprague expressed frustration at Osentoski’s amendment. “My biggest disappointment is that we’ve been doing this for a year and five minutes before the meeting I hear about this change when we decided earlier that there would be no limits.”
Last August the city officials voted to allow all license types to operate in the city — grower, processor, secure transporter, provisioning center and safety compliance facility licenses. Planning officials had been working ever since to work out the details to where such operations can be established in Lapeer. The planning commission’s work was finished in January when they approved a new zoning ordinance that indicated where medical marijuana business could locate. Grow operations can only be located in areas zoned industrial.
Planning and city commission officials have put in place buffer zones to restrict how close a medical marijuana business can be to other structures and property uses in the city. Medical marijuana businesses cannot be within 200 feet of a city park, 500 feet of a commercial daycare facility, 500 feet of federal property (post office, armory) and 1,000 feet of a school.
Chris Aiello, an attorney from Warren, was in the capacity audience and expressed his dissatisfaction with the limitation of dispensaries to six. He suggested the city’s decision to limit the number of dispensaries will set up the city for lawsuits. Aiello suggested many individuals in the room Monday evening that may have purchased property or made investments in the community thinking they were in line to open a facility may be excluded in their bid because of the restriction.
“All this time, for a year you’ve been working on this and it comes to this? I question how you got to this point in three minutes (at Monday’s meeting). Now you have to set up criteria. Is it going to be first come, first served basis, a lottery, what’s it going to be?” Aiello asked.
The city planning office has received more than 300 calls in recent months by individuals and corporate representatives seeking information on the status of the medical marijuana ordinances in the city — an indication to the strong interest by entrepreneurs to enter the medical marijuana business.
Lapeer attorney Bernard Jocuns, a medical marijuana advocate, commented, “It’s cool that this has passed. But limiting the number of dispensaries is going to create a bizarre process,” and suggested it’s a “strong likelihood” that Michigan voters will pass legalization of recreational use of marijuana next November as it appears enough citizen signatures have been secured to put the measure on the ballot.
The area that is ripe for medical marijuana development in Lapeer, as dictated by the city’s zoning ordinance and free of established buffers is along Imlay City Road (east of Walmart) to the city limits at Myers/Morris roads.
The City Clerk’s office is currently drafting plans and a procedure to accept license applications effective April 1.

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