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Federal judge blocks Detroit recreational marijuana ordinance

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

A federal judge finds Detroit’s effort to reserve half of recreational marijuana retail licenses for city residents is likely “unconstitutional.”   

The legacy provision in Detroit’s ordinance gives an advantage to people who’ve lived ten to 15 years out of the past 30 in the city. Other factors like low incomes or past marijuana convictions would give legacy applicants an advantage in obtaining adult-use licenses.

The intent was to ensure that communities that had long suffered during the War on Drugs would benefit now that marijuana is legal in Michigan.

However in his preliminary injunction, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman finds the ordinance is discriminatory against those who haven't lived in Detroit as long.

“The Ordinance is far more protectionist than it is equitable,” Judge Friedman wrote in his opinion.

Friedman says “the ordinance’s...favoritism toward Detroit residents...embodies precisely the sort of economic protectionism that the Supreme Court has long prohibited.”

Judge Friedman writes the legacy provision of Detroit’s adult use marijuana ordinance violates the fundamental right to inter- and intrastate travel, and impedes interstate commerce.

Detroit city officials worked for two years to create the city’s adult-use marijuana licensing ordinance. The legacy provision was a key part of the effort to craft the ordinance which would have allowed up to 75 businesses to operate recreational marijuana retail operations in Michigan’s largest city.

But before the ordinance could go into effect April 1, a lawsuit was filed in federal court challenging the legacy provision.

Michigan voters approved adult use of recreational marijuana in 2018. The first legal retail salesstarted in December of 2019. Since then, recreational marijuana sales have grown steadily as more and more adult-use stores have opened in cities and towns across the state of Michigan, but not in Detroit, which is potentially the largest recreational marijuana market in the state.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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