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Politics & Government
0000017b-01f0-d19f-ab7b-19f505140000Listen to the series Monday, Wednesday and Friday on Morning Edition and All Things Considered. 13 City Council Candidates. Five Questions.WKAR reached out to 13 candidates running for City Council in Lansing and East Lansing to ask them the same set of questions about their respective cities. 12 accepted the invitation. This is what they had to say about big issues in Lansing and East Lansing. Lansing City Council How should the City of Lansing confront its legacy costs?How big of a role should cannabis entrepreneurship play in Lansing? Why?Lansing City Council Candidates What should be done to secure affordable housing in the city for people who live paycheck to paycheck?What are your plans to attract more businesses, residents, and investment to Lansing? Mayor Schor has been in office for two years now, Lansing operates on a strong mayor system, what letter grade you’d give him?East Lansing City CouncilAre you in favor of the pace of development in East Lansing and the direction it’s going in? What are your thoughts on the parking situation in East Lansing?East Lansing City Council Candidates What role should marijuana (recreational or medical) play in East Lansing’s future?Do you support the new East Lansing city income tax?What are your thoughts on the East Lansing City Council’s recent vote to criminalize LGBTQ conversion therapy?About The ProjectAll of the candidate interviews occurred in WKAR’s studio with the exception of one interview that was conducted off-site. Candidates were not provided with the questions in advance.The interviews took place between late September and mid October. Candidates were asked five questions about big issues in their city and asked to provide any policy changes they believe should be implemented around those issues.Of those questions, we chose three issues per city that are emblematic of this election cycle to air in a radio series called Roundabout: City Council Election Coverage. East Lansing will air beginning October 21. And, Lansing will air beginning October 28. Short clips of the candidate’s responses to all of the questions are included on the web.Over the course of the project, the Lansing City Council voted on new rules to govern recreational marijuana businesses. Lansing candidates Brandon Betz and Yanice Jackson-Long were interviewed in advance of that vote; thus, their answers may reflect that timeline.Lansing candidate Adam Hussain did not participate in the series. Hussain did not respond after multiple requests for comment.

EL City Council Candidates Weigh The Role Recreational Marijuana Should Play In The City

Holistic Health is a business that offers medical marijuana exams and renewals on Grand River in East Lansing. After Prop. 1 was passed in 2018 the city council and candidates are faced with deciding what role recreational marijuana will play in the city.
Alec Gerstenberger, WKAR
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Holistic Health is a business that offers medical marijuana exams and renewals on Grand River in East Lansing. After Prop. 1 was passed in 2018 the city council and candidates are faced with deciding what role recreational marijuana will play in the city.

After Proposition 1 was passed by Michigan voters in 2018, many cities and counties in the state are grappling with how they’ll open their communities to recreational marijuana. That includes college towns like Ann Arbor  and East Lansing, where marijuana has been decriminalized for years.  

In 2016, the city council passed an ordinance that allowed individuals over 21 to use marijuana on their private property. And, instead of receiving a misdemeanor or felony, individuals under 21 are only charged with an appearance ticket and given a low fine. At the time, it was only $25.

Now, medical marijuana dispensaries are popping up across East Lansing, and the council is faced with deciding who permissive they’ll be with recreational marijuana licensing in the city.

The candidates view run the gamut from fully supporting integration of recreational marijuana into the community to caution about how welcoming cannabis entrepreneurs within city limits.

Proceed with Caution

Candidate Lisa Babcock is running for one of the four-year terms on the East Lansing city council. She said decriminalization of marijuana is long overdue, but times have changed and so has the product on the streets.

“I think there are a lot of people that are committed to making this work. I think marijuana has been demonized for decades in a way it shouldn’t be, but I also think marijuana has changed over the past 20 years in terms of its content and we need to be more aware of that.”

Michigan State University student Warren Stanfield III agreed with Babcock. He said he welcomes the change. However, he adds that the city also needs to consider where these new businesses are going; it could change the image of the city.

You want that currency that they bring in. And trust me, I would love a dispensary in East Lansing. I just do not want it on Grand River.

“You want that currency that they bring in. And trust me, I’d love a dispensary in East Lansing, I just don’t want it on Grand River.”

Incumbent and current Mayor Pro Tempore Erik Altmann said that a more conservative approach should be taken by businesses expanding in the city. He said he thinks this approach will gain more support on the council and generally satisfy the community.

“There is still the problem of the drug being federally illegal and so there’s a bunch of question marks hanging over. Community acceptance is not at 100% so we designated these four areas as places where provisioning centers could set up.”

Regulation is Key

Jessy Gregg said she thinks marijuana should be regulated the same way liquor is regulated in the city, “Once you bump it into a recreational and non-medical category, it is essentially an entertainment just the way that having a drink is entertainment. Looking at some of the ways that we’ve legislated our liquor ordinances which do include things like separation between businesses.”

Incumbent Mayor Mark Meadows said he’d like to see the ordinance allowing recreational marijuana to be sold in East Lansing passed out of council.

“In those areas that we have already zoned for the sale of medical marijuana and at those facilities, they will have the opportunity anyway so both sell recreational and medical if it passes, and it was language that I support,” said Meadows.

Learning from Others

But not every candidate is pro-pot, even with caveats. John Revitte said the city should take a look at what other college towns have done after the state legalized recreational marijuana. He said he’s concerned about how increased marijuana use could impact transit safety.

We should make sure that we are doing best practices and we should check what do other college towns do about different issues, so marijuana might be one.

“We should make sure that we’re doing best practices and we should check what do other college towns do about different issues, so marijuana might be one. Maybe we need to talk to some people in Colorado at college towns to see how they’ve addressed some of the possible problems.”

Most candidates see marijuana in East Lansing as an opportunity, but how strictly these new businesses should be regulated is up for debate. 

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