City to consider cap on medical marijuana centers
Detroit — City officials are considering a new proposal that would cap the number of medical marijuana facilities operating in the city to 75 and lay out regulations for where they can locate.
The ordinance, which also includes provisions for how large the operations can be, is the latest by Detroit to combat a proliferation of so-called pot shops in the city in recent years.
Detroit City Councilman James Tate submitted the zoning ordinance changes last month to the City Planning Commission for a review and recommendation. The ordinance will then be introduced for council's consideration.
The legislation would establish rules for facilities in Detroit that grow, test, process, transport and dispense medical marijuana to patients with state-approved medical marijuana cards.
It also would encourage medical marijuana operators to provide community benefits in their licensing operations, city officials said.
“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," Tate said in a statement. "This ordinance balances those two needs with the preservation of neighborhoods being the top priority.”
The ordinance would not impact state or federal laws regarding marijuana facilities or the possession and use of marijuana. Nor would it close the 57 dispensaries currently operating legally in Detroit on temporary authorization from the city and state, officials said.
If approved, the ordinance would establish new rules clarifying the city's zoning and space regulations clouded by ballot proposals passed by Detroit voters in 2017.
The ballot initiatives, officials said, moved the city in-line with state law regarding the licensing and regulation of medical marijuana facilities but left questions about zoning restrictions. The latest proposal aims to clarify the city's spacing and "drug-free zone" requirements, which were amended following the 2017 ballot initiative.
"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.
But Jonathan Barlow, a spokesman for Citizens for Sensible Cannabis Reform, which gathered thousands of signatures for Detroit's ballot measures, argues the latest proposal will result in more hurdles for the industry and reduced access to medicine.
"They still are so far away from what the citizens already requested through the ballot. They are just totally neglecting the people's voice," he said. "The process is harder, there's less access to medicine, they are just making it worse than what they set out to do and what the voters asked for."
The voter-led ballot proposals approved in November eased restrictions on medical marijuana dispensaries in Detroit put in place by the city council in March 2016.
Wayne County Circuit Judge Robert Colombo in February overturned one voter initiative that would have changed city zoning laws and rolled back part of another initiative that dealt with distance requirements between the facilities and other dispensaries, parks and day-care centers, liquor stores and arcades.
There are currently dozens of illegal dispensaries in Detroit, officials say, that have been ordered to close by the Michigan Bureau of Medical Marihuana Regulation.
Detroit Corporation Counsel Lawrence Garcia said the ordinance will clarify the city’s regulatory role and resolve confusion created by some of the "misguided" zoning restrictions in the ballot initiative.
“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," he said.