Public hearing set on law for medical marijuana shops

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — An October public hearing is set to gain public feedback on a propose ordinance aimed at regulating where and how medical marijuana centers can operate in Detroit.

The law, crafted by Councilman James Tate, was formally introduced Tuesday at the council’s formal session. The ordinance seeks to limit hours, impose inspection and licensing requirements and a ban on drive-thru windows, among other regulations. The proposal also calls for an amendment to the city’s zoning code to specify where the medical marijuana centers can locate. The council scheduled a public hearing on the plan for Oct. 12.

The effort is the city’s first to regulate the proliferation of marijuana dispensaries in Detroit. If approved, the new rules would apply to existing facilities as well as any future marijuana provisioning centers in the city.

The plan won’t set a cap on the number of facilities permitted. But all current dispensaries — at least 80 by some estimates — will be subject to the licensing process, as well as future shops. There will be no “grandfathering” of facilities, Tate says.

Some medical marijuana advocates have come out in support of the council’s proposal. Others complained that the process hasn’t been inclusive enough and that some of the terms, including a ban on drive-thru windows and the zoning plan, are too strict.

The proposed ordinance includes detailed licensing, inspection and operation hour requirements. It also institutes age and criminal history thresholds for applicants and proposed employees of the various centers.

On-site marijuana use is also prohibited, and minors aren’t permitted unless they are a registered qualifying patient accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

The city-based law advances Tuesday as the state of Michigan weighs new medical marijuana legislation. The House Judiciary Committee last week sent three new bills aimed at legalizing dispensaries and edible forms of cannabis for medical marijuana patients to the House floor for consideration.

The bills, containing tighter rules than in failed 2014 proposals and an 8-percent excise tax on gross retail income of provisioning centers, is a compromise plan designed to overcome law enforcement opposition.

A voter-approved medical marijuana law that took effect in 2008 doesn’t specifically mention dispensaries or edible marijuana products, whose legality has been clouded by Michigan Supreme Court and appeals court rulings in recent years. Lawmakers are working to pass legislation that will clarify the law.