Detroit Cracks Down Hard On Medical Marijuana

The city has shuttered well over half its dispensaries, and has plans to close many more.


420 graffiti
Thomas Hawk / Flickr

Detroit is cracking down hard on medical marijuana.

Ever since an onerous and highly controversial zoning ordinance went into effect in 2016, 167 of about 280 dispensaries that were operating in the Detroit have been shut down by city officials, and city lawyers say another 50 will be shuttered in the coming weeks.

The root of these closures, says Joesef White, Detroit chapter leader of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, is city officials drafting regulations without concern or input from those who would have to abide by the new rules.

"The cannabis community was really not that actively involved in putting that legislation together for the city of Detroit," White said. "Ultimately what happened was that the zoning of dispensaries or cannabis related businesses was very, very restrictive."

Indeed, to legally operate a medical marijuana dispensary in Detroit requires said dispensary be located 1,000 feet away from schools, parks, libraries, day care centers, and churches. Oh, and liquor stores. A marijuana dispensary can't even be located within a thousand feet of another dispensary.

This has restricted dispensaries to operating in mostly inaccessible and undesirable industrial zones, White says. And that zoning is on top of licensing requirements that threaten even those businesses that have managed to stay open in undesirable industrial locations.

So far the city has licensed just five medical marijuana dispensaries, or one fully licensed dispensary for every 135,000 residents. Another 70 are operating under provisional permission while they go through the approval process, but the city of Detroit has stated they intend to have no more than 50 citywide.

The curtailment of the medical marijuana business and the promise of further crackdowns has taken a toll on patients, says Ron Jones, a local cannabis activist and member of Sons of Hemp.

"A lot of dispensaries that were open built relationships over the years with their patients." he tells Reason. Medical marijuana has been legal statewide in Michigan since voters passed a "Compassionate Care Initiative" in 2008.

"Now," Jones says, "by them being closed down, that kind of closes the door."

Jones and a group of dispensary owners sued the city last year over its zoning requirements, and he is currently promoting a petition that would change the licensing requirements in the city.

More sweeping efforts at reform are also underway.

On May 5, marijuana activists submitted petition language to the state requesting a ballot initiative for full recreational marijuana legalization in the hope of getting it on the November, 2018 ballot.

Full-scale legalization could force Detroit to reform some of the current regulations on the books. Full legalization or no, however White says there is plenty of work to be done on the local level.

"What we are trying to do here," he says "is find common ground and come together and help the local constituents and work with their elected officials to draft an ordinance that everyone can live with."

Ultimately though White feels history is on his side.

"Regardless of what side of the argument you're on," White says, "this marijuana issue is going to move forward. It's moving forward across the country."

NEXT: Single-Payer Healthcare Moves Forward in California, India Embraces Solar, and Republicans Still Haven't Repealed Obamacare: P.M. Links

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  1. Detroit must have solved all the other problems they had. Wow!

    1. The Detroit police need SOMETHING to do.

      1. Sex work is still illegal. They can always bully working girls for whatever Detroit cops traditionally bully working girls into putting out. Maybe now, with increased extortion, that will include more bud.

  2. The root of these closures … is city officials drafting regulations without concern or input from those who would have to abide by the new rules.

    1) The closure with roots in hell!

    2) “Why should we take input from *criminals*?”

    1. It appears input is only coming from criminals.

      Boom, I am here all ze veek.

  3. They intended the dispensaries to only be owned by politically-connected people. They didn’t intend for the average citizen to be able to start a new business.

  4. There has to be an economic angle behind the looter tactics–prolly asset forfeiture or to restore dealing on the side as a source of income for working girls (and… um… party favors for patrol cops). This is a broad incentive, and nothing less than an equally broad educational effort to get out the libertarian vote will counter it. One approach might be to show locals that the DemoGOP will always buy votes with food stamps ‘n such, so there is nothing to lose by voting libertarian for a few elections until several layers of repeal have set those looters a-quiver with desperation–then maybe going back to selling votes to the kleptocracy factions, only now with smaller overhead in fines, bail and court costs. Once the single-issue blinkers realize overwhelming strength of spoiler votes, the LP may well be in a position to peddle some Detroit city jobs like a modern-day Plunkitt.

    1. Nah. The angle here is that the biggest vote brokers in local Detroit politics are the Baptist pastors. If you want to be the guy who wins on the “non-partisan” city ballots, you have to get them to back you.

  5. This is why they don’t answer 911. Too busy with the real criminals.

  6. Check my math here please:

    5 fully licensed dispensaries @ 1 per 135,000 resident means 675,000 residents?

    280 dispensaries pre 2016 means 1 per 2,410 residents.

    Intent is

  7. damn the squirrelz!

    Intent is 50 licensed dispensaries which means 1 per 13,500 residents.

    Delaware is about to approve its second medical MJ dispensary in the State. According to the Delaware website the population 2015 was 945,937.

    My wife is a MS sufferer and her neurologist has recommended applying for a medical MJ card.

    Christian may wish to review the Detroit data as his case, IMHO, seems bit weak.

  8. Its pretty desperate times in Detroit. If you don’t know for sure this wont help I think we have to try

  9. What’s with these 1,000 feet rules, anyway?

    Okay, I kinda get the schools one. You don’t want some student cutting class and quickly walking to a dispensary to fill their medical prescription for weed. Or worse, a teacher doing that during free period, getting high and deciding school choice might be good!

    But libraries and churches? WTF? Are they afraid a library patron who had planned on charging out some serious literature is going to smoke up and opt to borrow a Cheech and Chong DVD instead?

    As for churches, wouldn’t some puffs actually enhance the overall religious experience? Or are these mainline churches that fear their pothead congregants will switch to Rastafarianism and start praising Ja?

    1. I would assume they’re trying to come as close to banning dispensaries as they can with the same upheld-by-the-Supreme-Court zoning language they previously used regarding to come as close to banning sexually-oriented businesses back in 1972. Probably at the behest of the politically-powerful Baptist ministers and their congregations, just like in the strip club case.

      (I haven’t actually read the ordinances, the story, or lived in the area for 15 years, but I assume Detroit pretty much works the way it used to, and the zoning rules sound like the ones I remember for strip clubs.)

  10. She’s lawyered-up and ready to make an ass of herself all over again!

    “Griffin not ‘laying down’ for Trump, fears career is over”
    “At a rambling press conference Friday, Griffin tearfully predicted her career is over and said Trump “broke me.”…..190551.php

    Damn! The guy keeps hitting the long-ball!

  11. “Walmart is asking employees to deliver packages on their way home from work”
    Bullshit! Lying WaPo.

    “Employees will be paid extra, and offered overtime pay as necessary to make the deliveries, Walmart spokesman Ravi Jariwala said Thursday.”
    Walmart is offering to PAY employees for after-work delivery.…..188783.php

    1. Walmart is offering to PAY employees for after-work delivery.

      Low. Down. Mother. Fuckers. The nerve of some people. There ought to be a law.

  12. Man, the e-Chron is just full of laughable lefty crap this evening”

    “California state bill looks to charge people who post fights to social media”
    “”This is the first bill of its kind to finally take a stand against this new, ugly epidemic of attacks committed for the purpose of gaining social media notoriety,” Dababneh said in a statement following the passage by the State Assembly.”…..188732.php

    No, you stupid shit, people have been trying to pass laws against speech forever. You’re just too stupid to realize you’re late to the party.

  13. Is there a cutoff of population density where your city gets automatically unincorporated?

    1. In Michigan? No.

      I remember the big kerfuffle that happened when a bunch of state laws had to be revised, because they had special rules for cities of over 1,000,000 population, and it was worried Detroit would just barely fail at the next census. Now, of course, having just under a million people would be celebrated as a huge comeback.

  14. It should be THE MARKET that decides how many dispensaries are needed, not City Hall. The politicians don’t get it, DETROIT SUCKS. There’s massive poverty, massive crime, the only good thing about it are the low real estate prices because nobody wants to live there. To improve Detroit, you’re gonna need all kinds of business. I wouldn’t get too picky about it.

    1. Agreed. I’d rather see a dispensary on every corner. I love a good cup of bhang after a long day’s work. Now they just need to bypass the disconnected politicians on the west side of the state, for recreational. Other than State, Lansing and it’s boroughs are just trailer parks and meth labs. Why it’s still the capital, I have no clue. Really, MI needs to be broken up into smaller states. One for the yuppers, one for the middle earth folks, one for the east and one for the west.

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