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A group seeking to place a proposal to amend Detroit’s medical marijuana ordinance on the November ballot is one step closer.

The Detroit City Council in a formal session Tuesday referred a pair of petitions to the Election Commission for review. The commission will meet Friday in advance of the council’s next formal session on Tuesday.

The group seeks to change the ordinance to allow dispensaries to open near parks and liquor stores.

“We’re moving forward,” said Jonathan Barlow, spokesman for Citizens for Sensible Cannabis, the group that gathered thousands of signatures for the ballot measures.

“Everything that we have done is to move the conversation and move the industry forward in the city,” he added.

The group has submitted enough petitions for consideration, said Mark Toaz of the city’s Law Department. He said as of Tuesday the council had less than 60 days to vote on the matter. The council begins its summer recess next week.

Among the requested items in the petition to amend Chapter 41 of the ordinance are for dispensaries to be allowed to operate until 9 p.m. Under the current ordinance adopted in March 2016, dispensaries are to close at 8 p.m.

Other proposed changes would be to remove the distance requirements from liquor stores and parks, and reduce the required distance from a religious institution to 500 feet.

Barlow said the measure is “not only to make it more accessible, but to give fair opportunity for the industry to be able to thrive in the city of Detroit ... We’re here for fair and equal access for citizens and the business owners of Detroit.”

A second petition, which seeks a zoning change by amending Chapter 61 of the ordinance, can not be placed on an election ballot, Toaz told the council Tuesday.

“This is fatally flawed,” he said. “There is Supreme Court case law that suggests that under the zoning enabling act, a zoning ordinance amendment cannot be amended by initiative. It can only be amended by Planning Commission and then elected body.”

The City Council also received an update on medical marijuana dispensaries in the city at its Tuesday session.

There were seven licensed dispensaries operating within the city limits, officials said. Before the current ordinance went into effect in March 2016, there were 283 dispensaries operating illegally. Since that time, the city shut down 173 operations and there are 51 on the list for closure. There are 71 dispensaries open and operating while going through the licensing application process, officials said.

“We’ve made very good progress,” said Melvin Butch Hollowell, the city’s Corporation Counsel.

cwilliams@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2311

Twitter: CWilliams_DN

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