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Detroit Continues Closing Medical Marijuana Dispensaries


October 18, 2016

Detroit Corporate Counsel Melvin "Butch" Hollowell said the city is "making meaningful progress" in closing medical marijuana dispensaries that don't comply with the city's zoning ordinance.

Of the 273 dispensaries that were counted in the city in March, 171 are still operating, he said.

Hollowell's goal earlier this year was to close all but about 50 of the dispensaries by December. He said city maps of dispensaries that meet zoning ordinance criteria "show room for about 50" in the city limits.

"Eighty seven (of the 273) are out of business. Seven of those closed voluntarily, and 80 we've closed," he said.

He reported that 14 more dispensaries in the city have received closure notices. If a dispensary gets a closure notice and does not go out of business, a neighborhood police officer and a city Building, Safety, Engineering and Environmental Department inspector will follow up by padlocking the building and mounting a poster saying the center is closed.

Hollowell said 64 additional dispensaries "are in the pipeline this week to get a (closure) letter."

The medical marijuana dispensary zoning ordinance, passed by the Detroit City Council in December, was originally created by City Councilman James Tate, who was concerned about the proliferation of dispensaries in the city.

Marijuana dispensaries were required to submit bids or applications to operate in the city beginning March 1. The deadline to submit the bids was March 31. The city received 255 applications to operate by the end of March. The applicants were a mix of new and existing dispensaries.

The zoning ordinance requires that dispensaries operate in designated zones, such as 1,000 feet from drug-free zones, including arcades, child care centers, educational institutions, libraries, outdoor recreation facilities, schools and youth activity centers; 1,000 feet from other medical marijuana caregiver centers; and 1,000 feet from a controlled use center such as a city park or religious institution.

Meanwhile, in September, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law new marijuana regulations that he said clarify the state's 8-year-old voter-approved initiative that legalized marijuana for medical use.

The laws require a new tax on dispensary shops and establish a state licensing system to grow, process, sell, transport or test marijuana.

The law takes effect in December. People who want state operating licenses need to wait until late 2017 to apply.

"The legislation indicated that dispensaries are allowable in cities if they pass the city ordinances," Hollowell said. "That (clarification) is very helpful."

Hollowell was not concerned about the vacant city properties left by closed medical marijuana dispensaries. "The market will take care of itself."

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