Pubdate: Wed, 04 Nov 2015
Source: Metro Times (Detroit, MI)
Column: Higher Ground
Copyright: 2015 C.E.G.W./Times-Shamrock
Author: Larry Gabriel


I saw purple spots. I saw yellow spots. I saw green spots. I saw orange spots.

No, I wasn't tripping on some hallucinogen. I was looking at the map 
of Detroit on display at the City Planning Commission's public 
hearing on the zoning ordinance for the city's Medical Marijuana 
Caregiver Centers. Each of the colored spots represented the schools, 
churches, parks, liquor stores, strip joints, and whatever else the 
proposed centers would have to be at least 1,000 feet away from as 
the zoning ordinance is currently written.

The colors covered up most of the city.

And then there were the black areas. Those were where the Caregiver 
Centers would be allowed. Those are in districts zoned B2 and B4 
(business districts), and those zoned M1-4 (industrial areas). There 
was a chunk of black on the far east side somewhere north of 
Jefferson, another on East Eight Mile Road, one on Woodward Avenue 
northbound near Highland Park, something on the west side near 
Telegraph and I-96 and a big bunch on the far Southwest side. Even 
within those black areas the centers would have to be at least 2,000 
feet away from each other, or from a party store where alcohol is sold.

Mostly the map seemed to depict that the centers would be pushed out 
to the edges of town. There were some black dots sprinkled throughout 
the city, but you had to strain your eyes to find them on the big map 
displayed at the front of the Erma L. Henderson Auditorium. The 
people who oppose medical marijuana storefronts were thrilled. They 
don't want to see them in their neighborhood and they couldn't see 
them on the map.

The patients and storefront business owners who were there to defend 
themselves were similarly disheartened at the colorful display of 
spots. If what they saw were to go into effect most patients would 
have to find their medicine somewhere else.

Then the testimony for or against the proposed law began. Right off 
the bat City Council member Raquel Castaneda-Lopez got up to point 
out that District 6 on the Southwest side, which she represents, is 
largely made up of industrial zones and she didn't necessarily 
support pushing most of the centers there.

Some 70 people got up to speak their two minutes. The vast majority 
of the opposition came from the Rosedale Park area and neighborhoods 
to the north where the opposition forces have organized. They are 
alarmed at what they see along Grand River Avenue and Seven and Eight 
Mile roads. They got there early and signed up to speak so the early 
testimony was overwhelmingly in support of squeezing the centers out 
as much as possible. Most of them had gone by the time those who 
supported a more liberal approach were in the majority.

Most of the testimony on either side was not to the point. The 
hearing was not to argue whether marijuana is medicine or not - or if 
God is on your side. However there was one substantive concern that 
was noted. Some folks asked that the centers not be allowed in B4 
(general business district) areas.

I didn't plan on sitting for five-and-a-half hours to witness the 
entire hearing, but that's what it took. One thing I learned is that 
among the public, the commissioners, and other city departments 
involved, there are those who seem to welcome the Caretaker Centers, 
as well as those who'd just as soon shut 'em all down tomorrow. And 
then there are those who just want to seriously examine the subject. 
They know marijuana is coming down the pike and they've never had to 
do something like this before. They want to get it as right as they 
can the first time and try to anticipate as many consequences of 
their actions as possible.

That's why the discussion after the public testimony was more 
revealing than that.

That said, most of the officials in the room agreed this ordinance as 
it stands is a work in progress and there will probably be some 
tweaking. As commissioners discussed the issue they asked questions 
of city employees from various departments involved in developing the 
ordinance. Then a second map came out with dots of an entirely different order.

The new map had purple spots spread across the city for the locations 
of schools. The 1,000 yard drug free school zone is federal law and 
it's non-negotiable. However the other distances are determined by 
the city. Along with the numerous purple spots were 10 big green 
ones. These zones related to some of the busiest intersections of the 
city. There was discussion about only allowing centers in these 
areas, where the idea was that various caregivers would join together 
in creating up to six major centers per zone.

It's an ongoing discussion. The commissioners want to look at a map 
where you take into account shorter distances from the churches and 
parks. Then there was some talk about creating some kind of 
enterprise zones in the industrial areas. There is concern to avoid 
any lawsuits that may arise. The whole thing ended about 10:40 p.m. 
because everyone had to get their cars out of the city lot by 11.

A few things are clear: There will be more discussion and the 
ordinance as written will see some changes, although it's not clear 
which direction those changes will go. And there are going to be 
fewer Caretaker Centers in Detroit than there are right now.

As we were headed out I asked a city worker nearby if we will be 
going through all this again when recreational marijuana gets 
legalized. His answer: "Yep."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom