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On July 31, the Detroit City Council finally adopted a zoning ordinance for medical cannabis facilities. The ordinance becomes effective 60 days after adoption—around Oct. 1, and will replace the moratorium that is currently in place. Detroit will allow a maximum of 75 provisioning centers with an unlimited number of all other types of facilities. Currently, there are approximately 55 locations in Detroit operating under the temporary operations provisions of the emergency rules established by the State of Michigan to govern medical cannabis facilities.

The temporary rules (to be replaced by permanent rules later this year) allow facilities to remain open only until Sept. 15, unless they have obtained full licensing by the state. Four provisioning centers in Detroit have been approved by the state for licensing, and a few more are likely to be approved at the final licensing board meeting on Sept. 10, the last meeting before the deadline.

Of those currently operating in Detroit, not all of them have even completed the second part of the application process, which mostly deals with the facility itself, while the first part is the prequalification review for assets, integrity and criminal clearance. Considering that, the opportunities for provisioning centers in Detroit may be greater than they seem, as any facilities failing to respect a cease and desist order from the state are likely to have that used against them.

While a few very lucky applicants will be successful in being licensed before the deadline, for most applicants, the process is much more frustrating. The slow roll-out is about to severely constrict the legal supply, causing the illegal market to increase as a result. Patients may end up using less cannabis, and that is not always a good thing.

The licensing bottleneck may soon be resolved. If the cannabis-friendly major party candidate for state governor, Gretchen Whitmer, wins the general election in November, the eventual replacement of board members might fairly be expected to be more favorable to an efficient processing of license applications.

The electors of the city of Detroit had voted at a previous election to approve both a medical cannabis facilities licensing ordinance and a medical cannabis facilities zoning ordinance. Those ordinances were challenged in court by a neighborhood group and joined in by the city. The neighborhood group was dismissed from the action, and the city was allowed to change sides (an extremely unusual procedure) and become the plaintiff challenging the citizens’ zoning initiative.

In short, the judge let the licensing ordinance stand, but struck the zoning ordinance on the grounds that the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act reserves those functions to elected municipal officials. That issue is still in litigation, now in the Michigan Court of Appeals. A decision might be expected in spring of 2019.

The city has also established a Medical Marihuana Facilities Review Committee made up of representatives from departments in the city including Building and Safety Engineering and Environmental, Planning Commission, Public Works, Fire Marshal, Planning and Development, Assessor, Health, Police and the Law Department, whose representative serves as chairperson.

At long last, the city of Detroit appears to be on track to begin licensing new businesses under the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act. Now all that is needed is for the state to fairly and efficiently process the applications.

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