Police: Emphasis On Marijuana Enforcement Declines

Jun 13, 2017

Marijuana-related arrests in Lansing are way down in recent years, and not just because of the proliferation of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.

Lansing Chief of Police Mike Yankowski says the staggering increase in heroin and opiate usage makes that a much bigger area of emphasis when compared to marijuana.

The number of marijuana dispensaries in Lansing has ranged from around 40 to 70 over the last few years, and crimes haven’t been a major problem in or near them. Still, there have been some crimes in the vicinity of Lansing dispensaries, including a homicide outside one of the businesses.

While it’s difficult to compare crime statistics for different types of businesses, Chief Yankowski says in general that there are as many as three times the number of crimes reported around convenience stores than medical marijuana operations. He adds that dispensary owners have shown a “tremendous amount of compliance” with the law.

A number of the dispensaries actually have a solid business plan and security, staying within the boundaries of who they're allowed to supply to and not supply to. - Lansing Police Chief Mike Yankowski

Michigan State Police Detective First Lieutenant Brian Bahlau takes a somewhat different view. He’s the section commander for a task force overseeing drug enforcement teams in Lansing, along with Jackson, Lenewee and Hillsdale counties. In his view, dispensaries are illegal operations.

Bahlau adds that legislation taking effect in December will create provisioning centers where customers will be able to purchase marijuana from someone other than their caregiver. In the meantime, he agrees that opiates are much more of an emphasis right now.

The only way you can get marijuana legally right now is if you grow your own and you are your own caregiver, or if you have a caregiver and you get it from your caregiver. - Michigan State Police Det. First Lt. Brian Bahlau

Yankowski expresses frustration with the wait for state regulations or inspection requirements, calling it a “glaring deficiency.”

And while waiting for clarity from the state, the Lansing City Council has struggled with writing a new marijuana ordinance. On Monday night, the council discussed the possible creation of a commission as part of a new medical marijuana ordinance. A public hearing on a new ordinance has not yet been scheduled.

Marijuana continues to be an issue away from dispensaries, with plants grown in private homes and vacant houses. Officials respond to complaints related to traffic and odors; Lansing building inspectors report finding fire hazards related to dangerous levels of electricity or the burning of plants to produce hash oils in these structures.

Chief Yankowski concludes that while the opiate epidemic is getting more attention lately, marijuana violators are still on his radar.