Police raid Detroit pot shop, make arrest

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — Police on Tuesday raided a medical marijuana dispensary in the city’s west side, seizing guns and drugs, and making an arrest.

Detroit City Councilman James Tate said the shop, located about 500 feet from a neighborhood school, cropped up in recent weeks and has led to a number of complaints by community members and educators.

“Right now, we are at a point where we cannot let this continue,” Tate told reporters at a news conference outside the now shuttered building. “This, to me, is the most egregious case I’ve seen.”

Detroit Police Commander Johnny Thomas said officers went to Detroit Medz at Puritan and Hubbell in response to claims that operators were selling marijuana to individuals without proper identification.

On Tuesday, officers confiscated two weapons and drugs inside. One individual was arrested on felony delivery charges. An arraignment could come as soon as Wednesday, he said.

Thomas said that the raid marks the department’s first at a medical marijuana dispensary.

“We’re watching all of them very carefully and those that don’t follow the rules will have legal action taken against them,” Thomas said. “There’s quite a few that are springing up. We are going to take a look at them all.”

The raid comes as Detroit works to finalize an ordinance that would govern the operation of dispensaries in the city, Tate said.

Medical marijuana dispensaries do not exist under current state laws, but the unregulated operations have continued to sprout up in Detroit and other Michigan cities.

The issue has been a key area of concern for Tate, who says some in the industry estimate that there are more than 80 facilities citywide.

Detroit had been focused on completing the ordinance and had not been making attempts to shut down any of the centers.

The city formed a work group last year with representation from Detroit’s police and law departments, building officials, planning commission and others. The goal has been to create an ordinance that’s in the best interest of the community and provides safe access for patients.

Tate, a member of the committee, has noted there are 16 dispensaries in his nearly 19-square-mile council district in northwest Detroit.

On Tuesday, Tate noted that the raided shop had been operating too close to John R. King School, which is against federal regulations. He’d also received reports that an employee had circulated fliers in the school lot during a recent eighth-grade commencement ceremony.

In the meantime, a city-based coalition crafted its own recommendations on how to stop the proliferation of the shops in Detroit.

The Metropolitan Detroit Community Action Coalition in recent months drafted and delivered to city leaders a proposed ordinance to regulate how and where the dispensaries will operate in the 139-square-mile city.

Michigan’s Medical Marihuana Act, which allows residents with debilitating medical conditions to legally use the drug, was approved by the state’s voters in 2008.

Under the law, state residents can apply for and obtain licenses to use and grow marijuana for medicinal purposes. But there’s been no clarity on whether dispensaries have the same capabilities.

Some have opened and have been operating with strict standards to monitor products and treat patients; others are not.

Only a handful of Michigan communities, including Ypsilanti, Traverse City, Grand Rapids, Ferndale and Ann Arbor, have adopted ordinances for dispensaries.

cferretti@detroitnews.com