Detroit officials on Thursday issued nearly three dozen licenses for retail adult-use cannabis shops, more than four years after Michigan voters approved a measure to legalize recreational marijuana in the state.
The licenses were issued after U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman on Wednesday morning denied a request to postpone the issuing of cannabis retailer licenses. The judge’s decision was made in a lawsuit challenging Detroit’s licensing regulations, which include provisions to encourage ownership in the regulated marijuana industry by local residents and those harmed by decades of marijuana prohibition.
“Our goal from the day voters approved the sale of adult-use marijuana was to make sure we had a city ordinance and a process in place that provides fair and equitable access to these licenses and the courts have affirmed that we’ve done just that,” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said in a statement on Thursday.
Recreational Pot Legalized In Michigan In 2018
Following the approval of a 2018 statewide ballot measure to legalize adult-use cannabis, licensed sales of recreational marijuana began in some Michigan cities in December 2019. An ordinance to regulate adult-use cannabis sales was passed in Detroit last year, but legal challenges led a federal judge to rule that the measure was “likely unconstitutional.”
An amended ordinance was subsequently unveiled by the city council in February. A lawsuit was filed again, with plaintiffs arguing that the city’s cannabis ordinance unfairly favored longtime residents. The Plaintiffs in the case had asked Friedman to pause the licensing process while the case was decided, but the judge denied that request on Wednesday.
“I am thankful for Judge Friedman’s wisdom in ruling today against the Temporary Restraining Order that would have again prevented Detroit from moving forward with our current Adult-Use Marijuana Ordinance,” Council President Pro-Tem James Tate said about the judge’s decision.
“We make sure we do the right thing,” Tate, who led the drafting of the ordinance, said at a press conference Thursday morning. “I’ve always said — and I’ve been told — if you do the right thing, everything will work out. It may not happen exactly when you want it to or not always how you want it to, but eventually, it’ll work out.”
The city issued a total of 33 licenses for adult-use cannabis retailers on Thursday. Twenty of the licenses were issued to so-called social equity applicants, including people who live in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition policies and those with certified Detroit legacy status who currently live in Detroit or another disproportionately impacted community. The remaining 13 licenses for cannabis retailers issued on Thursday were awarded to non-equity businesses.
A total of 90 applications were received by the city for the 60 adult-use cannabis retailer licenses available in the first round of dispensary licensing, but city officials said that only 33 of the applicants met the requirements for the highly coveted permits. The city also received several licenses for cannabis microbusinesses and consumption lounges, but regulators have not yet issued those types of licenses. Detroit regulators began issuing licenses for cannabis growers and processors in April.
“The recreational marijuana industry has tremendous potential to generate wealth in income for our city, as well as personal and generational wealth for those who participate,” said Detroit Deputy Mayor Todd Bettison.
City leaders plan to hold at least two more rounds of retail cannabis dispensary licensing, with the next round opening as soon as next month with city council approval, according to Anthony Zander, director of Detroit’s Department of Civil Rights, Inclusion and Opportunity. The city will award up to 30 additional retail licenses, 20 microbusiness licenses and 20 consumption lounge licenses in the next round.
Although the federal judge decided against putting a halt to issuing the first adult-use dispensary licenses, Tate said the city should be prepared for more legal action.
“By no means is the so-called battle over,” he said. “We’ve already been told that we’re going to get sued again. We know that’s the nature of this game.”
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