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Detroit forges ahead with new recreational marijuana ordinance

Jars of marijuana strands
Adobe Stock

Detroit is proposing a new approach to handing out recreational marijuana business licenses.

The city was in the midst of doing that when a federal court halted the process last year. It ruled that provisions in Detroit’srecreational marijuana ordinance gave longtime city residents, dubbed “Legacy Detroiters,” too much of an advantage to get those licenses.

Detroit City Council member James Tate now says that instead of fighting that ruling, he’s putting a new ordinance on the table. Instead of setting aside a certain number of licenses for city residents, it will reserve half of them for “social equity applicants.” The criteria for that designation is devised by the state, and includes factors such as living in a community highly-impacted by punitive drug policies, and having a drug-related conviction.

“We want to make sure that those individuals who’ve been from disproportionately impacted communities as it relates to cannabis arrests and convictions, [that] they have a true opportunity to compete for these licenses in the city of Detroit,” Tate said during a community meeting about the new ordinance Thursday.

Equity and non-equity applicants would be scored on separate tracks. Licenses would be handed out in three phases, with each phase needing City Council approval.

Tate thinks this ordinance will stand up to legal scrutiny, though he has no doubt there will still be legal challenges. “But more importantly, it provides an opportunity for Detroiters and equity applicants to have an opportunity to compete for these licenses in an industry that has shown no ceiling at this point,” he said.

The ordinance would allow for 76 recreational pot retailer licenses, 30 consumption lounges, and 30 microbusinesses. It would also allow current medical cannabis providers to get retail licenses after five years.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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