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Detroit Officials Vote to Limit Number of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Allowed in City

The ordinance is to combat unlicensed dispensaries that have been operating.

A.J. Herrington

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Detroit Officials Vote to Limit Number of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Allowed in City
Eric Limon/ Shutterstock

The Detroit City Council voted Tuesday to limit the number of medical marijuana dispensaries that will be allowed to operate within city limits. No more than 75 cannabis retail shops will be permitted under an ordinance adopted by the council without debate. The measure, which was proposed by council member James Tate in June, also places tighter regulations on the city’s cannabis industry.

Under the ordinance, cannabis businesses covering five different license types will be allowed to operate in the city. The measure regulates the commercial cultivation, processing, testing, distribution, and sale of medical marijuana citywide. The ordinance includes limitations on the number, size, location, and operations of cannabis businesses in the city. Another provision encourages medical marijuana firms seeking to do business in Detroit to include benefits for the community in their license applications.

Detroit Corporation Counsel Lawrence Garcia told local media that the council’s action is an effort to regulate unlicensed dispensaries that have appeared in Detroit in recent years.

“The ordinance passed today strikes a good balance that benefits both those who want development in the medical marijuana industry and those who want to preserve the City’s pre-medical marijuana character,” Garcia said.

Rush Hasan is a consultant for The Reef, a Detroit medical marijuana dispensary. He said that the ordinance passed by the council gives the Detroit cannabis industry needed guidance in their quest for licensing from the state. More than 60 medical marijuana dispensaries now operating under state emergency regulations must be licensed by September 15 in order to continue to operate. Companies still operating without a license after that date could become ineligible to receive one.

“It’s definitely a long time coming for a lot of people,” Hasan said. “This allows us to have a clear understanding on how we move forward. And now everyone is in the same boat because we have that deadline pressure,” he added.

Voter Initiative Struck Down

The Detroit City Council originally passed regulations for the city’s cannabis industry in March 2016. Then in November of last year, Detroit voters passed two separate ballot initiatives that would have eased tight restrictions in the regulations adopted by the city council.

But earlier this year, Chief Judge Robert Colombo Jr. of the Wade County Circuit Court partially overturned one of the initiatives, Proposal A, which would have allowed dispensaries within 500 feet of each other. It also allowed dispensaries to locate near liquor stores, child care centers, and other so-called sensitive use establishments.

Judge Colombo also entirely struck down the second initiative passed by voters in 2017, Proposal B. That measure established zoning regulations for pot businesses and permitted dispensaries and processors in all business and industrial districts.

Amir Makled is an attorney specializing in cannabis law that represents several Detroit medical marijuana dispensaries. He said that he believes that the council’s regulations are contrary to the will of voters as demonstrated in the passage of the two initiatives.

“However, I understand the city has an interest in curtailing the amount of dispensaries they have or medical marijuana facilities,” Makled said. “But I think they should have allowed the market to determine what was a reasonable amount of facilities to have.”

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