In The News

In The News

Friday, November 18, 2016

Lansing Debates: Stability vs. Progress In Residential Medical Marijuana Cultivation Ordinance

By Michael Nichols
Categories: Medical Marijuana

Momentum seems to be behind a Lansing City Ordinance with practical and constitutional concerns. City Attorney Jim Smirtka reviewed the ordinance at a committee meeting at City Hall on Thursday November 17, 2016, along with a representative from the Board of Water and Light (BWL). The genesis of this proposed ordinance is the complaints from individuals in neighborhoods regarding the smell and traffic coming from home-based marijuana grows, along with a fire safety concern.  The proposed ordinance states that if there is a home occupation/business that uses more than 5,000 KW per month and/or it emits an odor, fumes, gases or smoke outside the building and across the property lines of the land of the business then they would be required to register and be inspected annually. 

The representative of the BWL states that the average wattage for a "normal" home in Lansing is 552 KW per month. Larger houses or in suburb areas with things like pools can get as high as 3,000 KW but not typically. He stated that this is not a concern for just an individual house because there is common equipment that furnishes electricity to more than one house. He said that a typical small business like a party store would consume around that level, but that those homes or buildings are built for that load.

One individual on the council expressed that this seemed to target medical marijuana users due to the fact that this ordinance lists an odor as among the factors, she stated "outside of marijuana, what else would be exceeding 5000 and causing a stink?" Smirtka responded after a short discussion that this is not a marijuana ordinance, and that it would apply to home business with fumes or smoke. 

The proposed ordinance states that it will obtain the registering individuals’ name and necessary contact information but personal information would not be required or collected. Concern was expressed over HIPAA and the fact that the inspection reports would be obtainable under the Freedom of Information Act. Mike Nichols says "apart from the privacy concerns, I wrestle with the constitutionality of requiring homeowners to allow a government representative in their home without a warrant based on energy consumption."

Most of the speakers favored the ordinance. A few people spoke against the ordinance. One, Angie Stevens, best communicated her stance. She stated that inspections would not be allowed for the council under the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act. She felt that it was an attack on the medical marijuana industry itself because others, like tanning salons, are not producing scents. She asked the council what defines an occupation because most grows do not make money and that those growers are smoking for their health.

The next meeting is December 2nd at 3:30.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero revealed this proposed ordinance intended to identify and regulate home-based medical marijuana grow operations. The Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA), approved by voters in 2008, allows patients and caregivers to grow marijuana in their homes. Under the state MMMA, a registered patient can grow up to 12 plants for personal medicinal use. A registered caregiver can have up to five patients and grow up to 12 plants for each patient, including themselves. NLF attorney Nick Calkins attended the City Council meeting Monday, November 14, at which the ordinance was proposed. NLF clerk Nicole Springstead attended Thursday’s lengthy and somewhat tense public safety committee meeting.

The NLF team will continue to follow and fight for the rights of individuals and patients to be treated fairly and with respect. For the lawyers who are committed to what’s right and committed to results, call the Nichols Law Firm at 517.432.9000 (written by Nicole Springstead and Mike Nichols).

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Mike Nichols is a national leader in drunk driving defense. He is a member of the Forensic Committee and Michigan delegate to the National College for DUI Defense. He is also a Sustaining Member of the College. Nichols is also a founding member of the Michigan Association of OWI Attorneys; a member of the American Chemical Society; an associate member of he American Academy of Forensic Science, Adjunct Professor of Forensic Evidence in Criminal Law and OWI Law and Practice at Cooley Law School. He is also author of the West OWI Practice book and several chapters in other books on science and the law.

Mike Nichols is recognized by his peers in Michigan as a “SuperLawyer” in DUI/Criminal Defense. Nichols has also been asked to speak at conferences by groups such as the NCDD; Various Bar Associations in other states.