Last year in Detroit, medical marijuana ordinances went into effect on March 1st regarding where and when dispensaries could operate. According to Melvin Butch Hollowell of the Detroit corporation counsel, nearly 300 dispensaries in the area were found to be operating illegally. Letters were sent informing the businesses of their non-compliance, warning them of the risk of being shut down if they were not fully licensed. Since then, 167 medical marijuana dispensaries have been shut down in Detroit and the number’s expected to grow.
Several factors are considered when it comes to when, where, and how medical marijuana dispensaries can operate in Detroit. First and foremost, businesses must obtain a license specific to running a dispensary. Beyond that, zoning is a huge factor for many of the dispensaries that are currently under investigation. The ordinance requires that medical marijuana businesses cannot operate within a 1,000 foot radius of places like schools, churches, parks, and any other area considered a drug-free zone. They are also required to close by 8 pm.
The businesses that have been shut down so far are the ones located in the drug-free zones. With concerns from community members over the large number of dispensaries popping up within these areas, Hollowell explains the order of investigations based on priority:
“There are other areas, but as we look at an overall map, there are clusters and those are the areas that we do focus on,” he said. “We started out focusing in on the facilities that are in drug-free zones and then to the areas where there are these clusters. We’ve been successful in the closure rate, but there’s more to do.”
At present, according to Hollowell, there are seven attorneys working specifically on these cases in regards to enforcement, licensing, and regulatory issues. So far, Hollowell states that every single case requesting that a medical marijuana business be closed and padlocked has been successful. He also points out that at present, there are only five businesses licensed and operating legally within the city.
The ordinance and subsequent closures of medical marijuana dispensaries stems from complaints in the community. Chairman of the Metropolitan Detroit Community Action Coalition, Winfred Blackmon, is just one of many who’ve expressed concern. The issue, according to Blackmon, is not medical marijuana itself but the fact that so many businesses keep popping up in neighborhoods where they are not allowed to operate. With emails coming in from members of the community expressing their frustration with the situation, Blackmon feels strongly that the concerns are addressed and that laws are enforced.
Taking action on the concerns from those in the community, many medical marijuana businesses have been visited by inspectors from the Building Safety Engineering and Environmental Department. These businesses have also been notified by the police of their illegal operating status. So when the notice comes to close down shop, these businesses are not in for any kind of surprise.
The goal for Detroit is to limit the number of medical marijuana dispensaries to 50. So far, after the recent closures, there are 51 more businesses on the chopping block. This would bring the number of businesses closed to over 200 and even closer to the city’s goal for how many of them they’d like to see in operation.
With over a quarter of a million people registered to use cannabis medicinally, Michigan is currently one of the states where cannabis legalization might make its way on the 2018 ballot. Detroit, however, will continue to focus on its current goals of enforcing the ordinance and closing down businesses that operate illegally. Should cannabis become legal in Michigan, officials are confident that they will have successful models to follow from states where it’s already legal. In the meantime, medical marijuana businesses found violating regulations will operate at their own risk in Motor City.
The first set of regulations for Detroit’s already booming medical marijuana distribution industry were approved 6-1 by the city council. Dispensaries which already operate within the city will be forced to apply for a license or be shut down.
The new rules state that shops may only legally operate with an approved, city-issued license after they pass a background check, and against the wishes of some proprietors, drive-through service is now prohibited. Twenty-four hour service is also prohibited under the new ordinance, and a set inspection process is being developed. Until now, there was no tracking or operation control by the city, which led to reports of concern from Detroit residents.
Detroit Councilman James Tate commented on the city’s responsibility to respond to concerns about the growing number of unregulated medical marijuana dispensaries. Tate also states that licensing and rule adjustment will satisfy those concerned with dispensary control, and it will help patients to receive medication in a more regulated environment.
“Right now, there’s no ordinance to allow for these places to exist. That compassion is there … because it allows these facilities to exist,”
The council-approved regulations, which were proposed by Tate, also dictate new zoning guidelines. It specifies the distance in which medical marijuana shops can operate from organizations such as churches, schools, public parks and other dispensaries. Many Detroit residents are welcoming the new ordinances with open arms, hoping the new rules will shed light on the benefits of medical marijuana for patients of the city in need.
Michigan is one of three states where medical marijuana is legal, but no regulations are in place regarding dispensaries or distribution. As a result, the medical marijuana dispensaries operating in the Wolverine State remain unregulated.
Of the estimated 80 to 100 dispensaries operating in Detroit, three have been identified as having a drive-through window service. These three shops with drive-throughs have stirred extra attention and worry from Detroit government officials.
Mayor Mike Duggan described the city’s medical marijuana distribution as having spiraled out of control, and he believes it needs to be regulated as soon as possible.
“We need to get an ordinance passed, because right now we have no ability to enforce anything,”
stated mayor Duggan.
“I think we need to eliminate the drive-through aspect, which has now been added to some of these facilities.”
James Tate, Detroit Councilman, has been drafting a regulatory a city ordinance for months with the help of law enforcement officers and lawyers, and he anticipates introducing it next week.
While the ordinance aims to regulate all medical marijuana dispensaries, the growing concern about the legitimacy of the drive-through locations has earned them a “not permitted” section in the ordinance. Some dispensary owners and patients disagree with that decision.
Kim G., owner of 420 Dank, which opened recently and is displayed in each photograph in this article, pointed out to the Detroit Free Press,
“There are patients who aren’t mobile, who can’t walk in and out of the store.”
Manager of Green River Meds, Kisha Smith, pointed out that many of her customers use the window because they don’t want to be seen inside the store out of fear of being spotted by coworkers or neighbors because the medical marijuana community in Michigan is not always as widely accepted as in states like Colorado and Washington where even recreational consumers are not criticized.
After the ordinance is introduced, dispensary owners will have the opportunity to provide compelling reasons for using drive-through service, but the council will have the final say.
As one of the most historic cities in America continues to fight it’s way back to economic promise, an unlikely industry is booming in Detroit – medical marijuana dispensaries.
“This is the next big thing in the city of Detroit.”
said Councilman James Tate.
“It’s quiet for folks who are not really paying attention, but everyday it seems like another business is opening up.”
Tate characterized the number of medical marijuana dispensaries operating within the city limits as “staggering.” He estimates there are a total of ~180 medical marijuana dispensaries in Detroit.
“I’ve counted 13 in District One myself. We see some locations, certainly along 8 Mile and other border streets, where you have four, five, six kind of clustered together.” Tate continued.
That statement alone tells me there were no strict, if any regulations being enforced from the get go. In most medical marijuana jurisdictions dispensaries are mandated to be a specific distance from another dispensary – generally 750 to 1,000 feet.
Councilman Tate noted this as the main issue for so many shops popping up in a short period of time.
“These buildings, they have now just started popping up everywhere and because the state law is not clear on if they’re allowed or not, we take these businesses to court and they just get tied up and they just stay there. We have not won one case, nothing has been shut down and that’s the reason why. Most of these businesses don’t have a permit, they have no licensing.”
Beyond the legal issues the city faces, Tate said he’s concerned about the impact that the dispensaries are having in their communities.
“It’s not about being against it. It’s about making sure that we’re able to regulate it in a way that ensures the best quality of life for the residents who live in that area.”
“We’ve got a lot of complaints about it but some of that is emotional because they just don’t like the issue. The other part of it is people are not educated on it.”
City Council members in Detroit are basically at a standstill until lawmakers in Lansing better define the medical marijuana laws concerning dispensaries.
Detroit Lions defensive tackle CJ Mosley was allegedly caught using marijuana in his downtown London hotel room near Hyde Park this weekend when a disconnected smoke alarm tipped off hotel staff.
The Lions were in London, mathcing up with the Falcons as part of the NFL’s International Series games. After leaving the Pennyhill Hotel complex in suburban Bagshot on Friday, they relocated to London’s Intercontinental Hotel where the incident took place. Lions’ coach Jim Caldwell has reportedly suspended Mosley for two weeks. Officially, the Lions cited “conduct detrimental to the team” as the reason for Mosley’s suspension. Caldwell remarked:
“I think the statement stands on its own. If you take a look at it, read through it and kind of glean from it what you’d like. But we said two weeks and in two weeks, he’ll return.”
Mosley and the NFL Player’s Association filed a grievance against the suspension, aiming to protect Mosley from missing out on the two weeks of pay he could lose during the suspension.