Detroit works on making more room for marijuana businesses

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This map was included in a PowerPoint presentation shared by City Planner George Etheridge. The map shows the current drug-free zones in Detroit (highlighted in yellow) with the 1,000-foot distance requirement for adult-use marijuana businesses.

Several changes to city code are being considered that may allow more recreational marijuana businesses to open in more parts of Detroit.

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Current city code leaves limited options for Detroit entrepreneurs who want to open and operate recreational marijuana businesses due to zoning laws. Amendments brought before City Council include reducing the buffer around drug-free zones from 1,000 feet to 750 feet, spelling changes from marihuana to marijuana, and expanding the definition of what Detroit determines as a marijuana facility to include marijuana microbusinesses,  marijuana-retailer establishments, provisioning facilities and transportation services. 

Councilman James Tate joined a District 3 community meeting hosted by Councilman Scott Benson on Wednesday. Tate shared information and responded to residents’ questions about proposed changes to city code and the Legacy Detroiter program, which requires 50% of all new marijuana businesses in the city to be owned by Detroiters and makes city-owned property available to Detroit marijuana entrepreneurs at a heavily discounted rate. 

Almost 150 people logged on to Wednesday’s virtual meeting, where potential marijuana business owners complained about the lack of available locations they were allowed to open. Other residents shared concerns that the city would be overrun with recreational marijuana businesses and perceived access to young people in Benson’s district. Adult-use marijuana is restricted to adults ages 21 and older. 


Many of the available eligible properties for recreational  marijuana businesses are within Council District 3. Marijuana entrepreneurs are currently excluded from much of Detroit as city code does not allow these businesses to operate within residential neighborhoods and other places, such as drug-free zones that include schools and child care facilities, libraries, indoor and outdoor recreation facilities, public housing, and some street overlays. These overlays include prime business areas like the Livernois and McNichols area,  Grand River Avenue, Michigan Avenue,  Vernor Highway, Woodward Avenue from Highland Park to downtown Detroit, Grand Boulevard and part of East Jefferson Avenue.

Prohibiting recreational marijuana within federally funded public housing is largely due to marijuana still being classified as an illegal drug at the federal level.

Just 2,538 parcels of land meet the zoning and space requirements for marijuana-related businesses in Detroit. However, City Planner George Etheridge said on Wednesday that many of these parcels have been “priced out of the range” of Legacy Detroiters. The City has identified only 17 structures within its inventory that meet the zoning and spacing requirements so far.

The proposed change from 1,000 feet of distance from a drug-free zone would create a 53 percent increase in the number of available parcels, according to Ethridge.

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