MI: New Ordinance May Cap Number Of Marijuana Dispensaries In Detroit

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Only 75 medical marijuana dispensaries may be allowed to legally operate in the City of Detroit under an ordinance proposed Thursday that seeks to cap the number of facilities citywide, after dozens of illegal shops have already been shut down.

The ordinance, proposed by Council member James Tate, seeks to establish rules for five types of medical marijuana facilities, including locations where medical marijuana could be grown, tested, processed, transported and dispensed to patients with state-approved medical marijuana cards.

The ordinance would also:

Encourage prospective owners of medical marijuana facilities to offer community benefits as part of their application for approval.

Clarify the city’s spacing and “drug-free zone” requirements.

“Approving this ordinance would finally bring some closure to this issue and chart the path to the future of this industry in the City of Detroit and the State of Michigan,” Tate said in a statement. “The goal has always been to ensure that we have an industry that is respectful of the neighborhoods, the communities it is located in, but also considerate to individuals seeking safe access to alternative medication. This ordinance balances those two needs with the preservation of neighborhoods being the top priority.”

The announcement comes after a Wayne County Circuit Court judge in February overturned a voter-approved medical marijuana initiative that would have relaxed local control in Detroit this year.

The initiative, placed on the November ballot last year as Proposal B, specified in which zoning districts medical marijuana-related facilities could be located within Detroit. It would have allowed dispensaries and processors in all business and industrial districts, including downtown and Midtown.

Chief Judge Robert Colombo Jr. also partially overturned the zoning portion of a separate medical initiative, Proposal A, that sought to allow dispensaries to open within 500 feet of another dispensary; near liquor, beer and wine stores; child care centers, arcades and parks.

The proposed ordinance has raised concerns among some within the marijuana industry who feel it may be short-sighted.

Amir Makled, a medical marijuana attorney who represents some Detroit dispensary clients, said while he believes the city has the power to draft the ordinance, he thinks it goes “against the will of the voters,” who overwhelmingly approved both ballot 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.”

Detroit Corporation Counsel Lawrence Garcia said the new ordinance will clarify the city’s regulatory role.

“Detroit’s new, proposed ordinance will…resolve some of the confusion created by some of the misguided zoning restrictions that were originally part of the ballot initiative,” Garcia said in a statement. “In short, the new ordinance, if passed, will clarify Detroit’s common-sense regulation on medical marijuana activity and will allow for all five of the legal uses contemplated by state statute.”

A draft of the ordinance has already been presented to the city’s planning commission, which is scheduled to hold a public hearing later Thursday.

The ordinance also needs to be approved by the Detroit City Council but a date for consideration has yet to be set.

The ordinance also will regulate how dispensaries and other related operations would be approved by the city, and what size they could be.

According to the news release, the ordinance would not close the 57 dispensaries that are currently operating legally in the city, thanks to a temporary authorization from the city and the state.

Makled said many of his clients have already been approved to operate in the city but several others are still trying to break into the growing industry locally.

“If Detroit is going to make a comeback and have new industries come into the city, they should welcome this industry,” Makled said. “It can create a tax base and a whole new hub for the industry so I’m surprised they’re curtailing that growth.”