After the State of Michigan voted to legalize recreational marijuana in the 2018 midterms, cities and municipalities across the state are now deliberating what role marijuana will play in their future. Yet for many, including Lansing, markets are still developing and businesses are just beginning to be licensed forcing city council candidates to take a stand on how permissive they'll be toward cannabis businesses.
The City of Lansing is currently developing how big of a presence marijuana will be in the city. On September 30, the current Lansing city council passed an ordinance that includes new rules to govern medical and recreational marijuana businesses.
The ordinance allows for 28 recreational dispensaries, three additional medical marijuana locations, and new types of marijuana businesses in each ward.
All the candidates support marijuana in Lansing, but they have different opinions on regulation and next steps.
Room To Grow
Jody Washington is an incumbent in Ward 1, she supports the new ordinance. Washington said the ordiancnce is a living document that can change whenever the city sees fit. She believes the policy can evolve.
“And it isn’t that we cannot expand that later, because we can, but it’s easier to expand it later then to pull it back in. But I think we have to go forth with wisdom and realize that we are not the only city in the state or the country that is growing and selling cannabis.”
Brandon Betz is also running against Washington in Ward 1. Like Washington, he said he sees potential for the ordinance expanding. Yet, Betz would like to see that expansion promptly.
Betz said he thinks that Lansing could be a leader in the state for marijuana distribution, cultivation, and retail sale.
“And I think that we could do that by expanding the number of businesses that we allow in from 25 to let’s say 50. I also think that we could be very strong on social equity. I also think that we could work on making sure that that is part of our entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
Focusing on Regulation
At-Large candidate Yanice Jackson-Long said she is an advocate for marijuana. Jackson-Long added she believes both recreational and medical marijuana have a place in Lansing.
“As long as we control it, not let it get out of hand. It has to be regulated and I think that there is a lot of potential, a lot of growth. There’s a lot of opportunity for local business owners and for the marijuana industry.”
Patricia Spitzley is a member at-large, running against Jackson-Long to keep one of the two at-large seats up for grabs. Like Jackson-Long, Spitzley said she wants growth and economic development in the marijuana industry, but the council need to be mindful of the residents’ concerns.
“My goal is to make sure that we have fair, predictable, reasonable regulations that are protective of our neighborhoods. Our neighborhoods have been clear; they don’t want it near parks, they don’t want it near churches and they want it out of our neighborhoods to the extent we can.”
Incumbent Carol Wood is the president of the council running for re-election as a member at-large. Wood cautioned the city, saying the council should be careful and concerned about the marijuana industry and how it will impact Lansing.
“And making sure that rules and regulations that we have in place allow for what the voters have voted in, but also are cognizant of how this will affect businesses and neighborhoods in and around dispensaries and grow facilities and the other licensed facilities that are out there.”
Julee Rodocker is also running for one of the two at-large seats. She takes a slightly different approach to marijuana in Lansing. Rodocker said she believes the city can’t rely solely on the income that may come from dispensaries and other marijuana businesses.
“However, we have to be responsible as city leaders. I don’t believe any one industry should be the savior to our financial woes. Trends come and go and we have seen that in the past where we put all our eggs in one basket and then that industry is gone.”
Adam Hussain is running unopposed for his current 3rd ward seat. He did not participate in the series after multiple requests for comment.
The voters have spoken, voting for both medical and recreational marijuana in Lansing. All of the candidates running for a spot on the council support the up-and-coming industry, with varying degrees of enthusiasm and reservation for new cannabis ventures.