Marijuana is big business in Michigan — and when the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act was passed, there was an overwhelming surge of growers, processors, transporters, provisioning centers, and safety and compliance centers applying for licensing. With each licensing application averaging eight to 10 hours for completion, the team at the clerk’s office in the City of Lansing, Michigan, knew they had to brace for impact and quickly codify and streamline their approach.
At this time, Lansing was in its second year using Laserfiche enterprise content management for document digitization, electronic forms, and content-centric process automation. Working with solution provider ICC Community Development Solutions, the city had been using Laserfiche to digitize and streamline meeting agenda development and court documents. Since they began their digital transformation efforts, Lansing was able to approve 1,393 contracts and 1,213 city resolutions, an average of 353 contracts and 305 resolutions per year.
When faced with the complexity of the medical marijuana application licensing rollout — coupled with COVID-19 restrictions — the city clerk’s office saw an opportunity to digitally transform another area of service.
Programmer and Analyst John Foltz took initiative to set up the marijuana repository for the Clerk’s Office. “I stopped in to check on how things were going,” he said. “They were spending 30 minutes scanning each application and another four hours to a full day creating folders and storing images. It was a lot of work and they were still dealing with paper.” With the goal of better managing and streamlining processing and enabling fee collection, Foltz knew a digitized workflow would reclaim a significant amount of staff hours and make for a better overall employee experience.
The Clerk’s office has since reviewed 786 marijuana facilities applications and licensed 76 facilities and the approval process went from three months to three weeks, with an estimated 10 staff hours saved per application.
Not only was this a more efficient and sustainable approach, but it also helped drive cost-savings for the city, allowing the clerk’s office to successfully cover the cost of administrating medical marijuana by receiving $1,045,000 in approved application fees. They also garnered $380,000 for the city, thanks to the quick licensing and approval of the 76 facilities at an annual fee of $5,000 per facility. In another victory, the city won 16 lawsuits, which can be attributed to clear document classifications in the decision-making process.
Ultimately, Lansing’s digital transformation initiative with Laserfiche amounted to about $1.2 million in revenue in the first two years of operation. Additionally, the City’s re-engineered processes support a proactive stance on digital resilience, a critical capability in the wake of COVID-19 and related disruptions.
Chief Deputy City Clerk, Brian Jackson, has a long-term vision for Lansing and its continued efforts towards streamlined and digitized processes. “State laws keep changing and being nimble is a key quality we need in our digitization partners. They need to be able to adjust without the evolving regulations creating a problem with processing,” said Jackson. “When our ordinance changes, we can just change the text on the Laserfiche forms or add or remove a department approval as necessary.”
The Clerk’s office in the City of Lansing has transformed a number of processes, from streamlining the marijuana operations application process to simplifying administrative tasks. As the Office continues to identify time and cost savings in its digital transformation, it’s clear there is only growth from here. The City’s plans include streamlining all licensing types using Laserfiche, including new additions, such as food trucks. Implementing Laserfiche technology in other licensing processes will be instrumental in bringing the City of Lansing’s goals to life, such as “Project Clean Desk” — the Mayor’s vision for a paperless city. By putting the right technology and partnership in place, the City of Lansing has been able to improve efficiency and digital resilience and reimagine how work gets done in today’s digital age now and into the future.
The author, Linda Ding, is Director of Strategic Marketing at Laserfiche