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Detroit to consider recreational marijuana license ordinance

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

Michigan’s largest city is taking its first step toward opening recreational marijuana shops.

Detroit officials unveiled a proposed ordinance Monday that would allow entrepreneurs to apply for retail, grower, processing, and other cannabis business licenses. The proposed ordinance would reserve half of the licenses to Detroiters.

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The plan calls for issuing up to 75 retail adult use retail licenses, as well as 35 licenses each for microbusinesses and consumption lounges.

If approved by the city council, the licensing process would begin next spring.

City Councilman James Tate describes recreational marijuana as an industry in its “infancy” in Detroit.

“We have to make sure that we nurture it properly to make sure that it grows strong, not reckless, and is a bridge to generational wealth that has been out of reach for so many families in our city,” says Tate.

Michigan voters approved recreational marijuana use in 2018.   It’s been nearly a year since retail adult use sales began in the state.   But Detroit city officials have delayed giving the green light to cannabis sales until they could insure a more equitalsystem.

Under state regulations, existing medical marijuana businesses were given priority.

But of the 46 existing medical marijuana dispensaries in Detroit, only four are owned by city residents.

Mayor Mike Duggan says city leaders did not want to open the door to a highly lucrative recreational marijuana market in Detroit and only to see city residents squeezed out.

“There have been too many barriers that have kept Detroiters from even participating in the market,” says Duggan.

Under the proposed ordinance, 50% of licenses must be reserved for Detroit residents with long ties to the community.

Specifically, applicants:

  1. Must have lived in Detroit for 15 of the past 30 years
  2. Must have lived in Detroit for 13 of the past 30 years if they are low income
  3. Must have lived in Detroit for 10 of the last 30 years if they have a marijuana conviction

Mayor Duggan says the city is also working to assist with start up financing and slashing fees for city residents seeking a cannabis license.
The plan is already facing legal threats against provisions prioritizing Detroit city residents in the licensing process.   

City leaders are encouraging people interested in applying for an adult use retail license to start the state pre-qualification process in December.  If all goes as planned, the city may begin accepting license applications in the spring.

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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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