Detroit lawyer: Pot dispensaries drop challenge

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — A group of medical marijuana dispensaries have dropped a challenge to a new city law that regulates where they can operate, the city’s top lawyer said.

Detroit Corporation Counsel Melvin Butch Hollowell said he learned Friday the case has been voluntarily dismissed.

“We are obviously very pleased to have won this case. We are confident that the city’s medical marihuana regulations are lawful, fair and reasonable,” he said. “We will continue to enforce compliance in the courts, while concurrently processing the applications submitted for medical marihuana caregiver center licenses.”

Timothy A. Stoepker, an attorney representing the dispensaries, confirmed Friday that the case was voluntarily dismissed. He declined further comment.

In the lawsuit filed last week, the dispensaries argued that the city’s ordinance “unlawfully” prevented the shop operators, who are pre-existing primary caregivers licensed by the state, from providing medical marijuana to qualifying patients with “debilitating medical conditions.”

The shops — all within areas considered to be drug-free zones — said they were turned down outright by the city after submitting applications without means to appeal.

But Hollowell dismissed the claims, saying the city adopted a lawful ordinance that will allow for approximately 50 Medical Marihuana Caregiver Centers in various locations in the city. He further stressed that the facilities all were in zones prohibited under federal, state and city statues.

Wayne County Circuit Judge Daphne Means Curtis last week had granted a temporary restraining order on behalf of the dispensaries.

The case was slated to resume on April 13. At that time, the city also planned to argue the judge should step down from the case based on a potential conflict. She and her husband, Paul Curtis, recently paid a $175,000 settlement to the city over blight violations at the Wurlitzer Building, which the couple formerly owned.

The medical marijuana rules went into effect on March 1 after the City Council approved a pair of controversial ordinances that regulate where and how dispensaries can operate in Detroit. The city began accepting applications online the same day.

About 195 applications overall have been submitted. Of those, 74 are seeking to operate in drug-free zones, Hollowell has said.

The federal Drug Free School Zone Act prevents the drug from being delivered, sold or manufactured within 1,000 feet of a school. State law also factors libraries into the rule. The city’s zoning regulations cover educational institutions and goes beyond that, prohibiting shops from operating near child care centers, arcades and outdoor recreation facilities.

cferretti@detroitnews.com