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Detroit takes applications for recreational marijuana shops from residents

Detroit — The city on Tuesday opened a six-week application window reserved for legacy residents seeking to operate recreational marijuana shops in Detroit. 

The businesses are permitted under a long-awaited ordinance — with controversial provisions to give Detroiters priority — unanimously approved by Detroit's City Council in November after two years of debate. 

The latest results make recreational marijuana legal in 15 states and approved for medical purposes nearly nationwide.

The ordinance was spearheaded by Detroit City Councilman James Tate to ensure Detroiters have an equitable opportunity to participate in the industry that's estimated to yield $3 billion in annual sales in Michigan.

The ordinance gives special preference to residents under a certification the city is calling "Detroit Legacy."

Applicants can qualify for the "legacy" certification if they've lived in Detroit for 15 of the last 30 years; lived in Detroit for 13 of the last 30 years and are low-income; or lived in Detroit for 10 of the last 30 years and have a past marijuana-related criminal conviction.

The city's Office of Civil Rights, Inclusion, and Opportunity is certifying legacy Detroiters, overseeing the licensing process and reviewing the neighborhood plans, as it pertains to community benefits, said Charity Dean, the office's director. 

"We're building up a social equity program with external partners with financial and technical resource assistance for entrepreneurs ... interested in this industry," she told The Detroit News.

Dean said the city has to hire more employees to review applications, property details and fact-check data. 

The process has moved fast, rushing the office to create policies and procedures, but Dean added: "We will be ready." 

Under the ordinance, legacy Detroiters are able to buy city-owned land at 25% of the fair market value, and all application fees are slashed to 1% of the total cost.

After the exclusive six-week licensing period for legacy residents, individuals who already operate medical marijuana facilities in Detroit will get their own reserved six-week application process before other applications will be reviewed.

The city will license up to 75 adult-use retailers, the same numbers it allows for medical marijuana provisioning centers, officials have said.

City officials have said only a handful of the city's 46 medical marijuana dispensaries, permitted under an ordinance approved by Detroit's council in 2018, are owned by residents. 

Opponents of the new law have argued that the "social equity" component, allowing residents priority on licensing and other perks, is unfair. 

Tate's office convened workgroup sessions with industry professionals and grassroots advocates to develop the social equity component of the law and identify challenges faced by Black entrepreneurs. 

The licensing covers 10 state-approved categories, including medical marijuana provisioning centers, adult-use retail establishments, growers, processors, safety compliance facilities, temporary events, microbusinesses, designated consumption lounges and secure transporters.

Designated consumption lounges and microbusinesses will be limited to no more than 35 across the city.

The city also intends to work with philanthropic groups and private lenders to develop sources of funding and expertise to back Detroit-owned marijuana business start-ups.

Voters in Detroit and across the state approved a ballot proposal in November 2018 to legalize recreational marijuana for adults. 

Detroiters can apply online at detroitmeansbusiness.org/homegrown.

cferretti@detroitnews.com