(Courtesy of Robert Thomas)

Detroit’s adult-use marijuana ordinance goes into effect Wednesday with online applications opening for recreational licenses for growers, processors, transporters, safety compliance facilities, and event organizers. 

The applications will be reviewed through a third-party firm hired by the city’s Department of Civil Rights, Inclusion, and Opportunity’s Office of Marijuana Ventures and Entrepreneurship. City Council will vote on a date to start issuing licenses following advice from CRIO. 

An unlimited number of licenses can be issued for most categories. But the city will only issue 100 retail licenses, with 50 of them going to social equity applicants. 

“We are confident and proud of the space that we have carved out for social equity applicants to take part in this billion-dollar industry,” Megan Moslimani, director of marijuana ventures and entrepreneurship within CRIO, said in a press release. 

Michigan has the third-largest cannabis industry in the country, with more than $1 billion in sales last year.

In the future, some council members hope to be able to issue more than 100 licenses. In the meantime, the City of Detroit and the Detroit Cannabis Project are partnering to offer weekly online business classes for marijuana entrepreneurs at 6 p.m. on Thursdays.

The recreational marijuana ordinance was approved earlier this month in an 8-1 vote by the Detroit City Council after a majority of Detroit voters approved recreational marijuana in the 2018 elections. 

Marcia Spivey, secretary for the Regent Park Community Association, has concerns over the lack of information about where and how many dispensaries will be in each neighborhood. 

“Detroit is going to have its lion’s share of recreational adult use dispensaries and it’s sort of like the wild west,” she said. 

The city is looking into providing data after Spivey and other community groups submitted requests for a map of dispensary locations. Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor are two cities with maps of where cannabis businesses are located, similar to what Spivey is calling for. 

Other residents want to be assured that neighborhoods impacted by the businesses will benefit from the marijuana sale revenues. In the last several years the auto body shops in Yolanda McCants neighborhood in District 3 have been replaced with numerous marijuana businesses. 

“They steady putting them up, right across the street from each other,” said McCants, a 50-year resident. “We have to inhale the odor that is coming from these facilities.”

Last year, Michigan cities received approximately $28,000 in tax revenue for each licensed recreational marijuana store. 

Tom Lavigne, attorney at Cannabis Counsel, a Detroit-based firm that helps cannabis entrepreneurs, said many of his clients are unable to find property that qualifies under the new ordinance due to zoning requirements stipulating that marijuana businesses must be 1,000 feet from liquor stores, churches, and drug free zones, including recreation areas and parks. 

“Given all of our liquor stores, churches, and pocket parks, there’s hardly any real estate that qualifies, and the city knows this,” he said. “We’ve been struggling with this issue. It’s all an empty promise until they fix the zoning, because there is no property.”

Council members have said they view the ordinance as a starting point and that amendments are likely. At-large Councilman Coleman A. Young II has advocated for more licenses and for zoning changes that would allow more adult-use businesses to open in Detroit. 

But, Lavigne said he is excited that there will be an unlimited amount of licenses available for marijuana businesses, excluding retail. 

Under the ordinance medical marijuana establishments will have to wait five years before they can apply for a recreational license. For everyone else, “It might be a year before anyone gets licensed,” Lavigne said. 

Application instructions can be found at https://www.detroitmeansbusiness.org/

Jena is a BridgeDetroit's environmental reporter, covering everything from food and agricultural to pollution to climate change.

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