Pubdate: Tue, 30 May 2017
Source: Detroit Free Press (MI)
Copyright: 2017 Detroit Free Press
Author: Katrease Stafford


Detroit's crackdown on illegally operating medical marijuana
dispensaries has shuttered 167 shops since the city's regulation
efforts began last year and dozens more are expected.

Detroit corporation counsel Melvin Butch Hollowell told the Free Press
that 283 dispensaries were identified last year, all of which were
operating illegally.

"None of them were operating lawfully," Hollowell said. "At the time I
sent a letter to each one of them indicating that unless you have a
fully licensed facility, you are operating at your own risk."

Hollowell said an additional 51 are in the pipeline to be closed in
the coming weeks. That would bring the closures up to 218 and a step
closer to the goal laid out by officials to only have 50 citywide.

And as of last week, only five have been licensed and are legally
allowed to operate within city limits. Applications are still in the
queue, Hollowell said, for approval.

The city's medical marijuana ordinances took effect March 1, 2016, and
since then, teams of inspectors from the city's Building Safety
Engineering and Environmental Department and police officers have
visited many of the identified stores to alert them of their

The new ordinances require operators to obtain a business license
designed for the medical marijuana stores.

Hollowell said shops are also prohibited from operating within
1,000-foot radius of a church, school, park, liquor store, other
dispensaries and other places considered a drug-free zone under city
law, such as libraries or child care centers. They also must close by
8 p.m.

However, store operators are able to apply to the Board of Zoning
Appeals for a variance to operate within those boundaries.

"The voters of the state made medical marijuana legal so we have to
manage that in a way that is consistent with keeping our neighborhoods
respected and at the same time, allowing for those dispensaries to
operate in their specific areas that we've identified as being
lawful," Hollowell said. "There was very significant public input in
this process."

There are an estimated 244,125 registered medical marijuana users in

The city has been enforcing the ordinances via court orders and
administrative actions.

"We take the report from the team and then we attach that to a
complaint that's filed in Wayne County Circuit Court," Hollowell said.
"We ask the court for order of closure and padlocking. ... We haven't
lost one of those cases yet."

Community members and leaders like Winfred Blackmon have expressed
concern over the years about the large number of dispensaries in the

Blackmon, who is the chairman of the Metropolitan Detroit Community
Action Coalition, a group of community leaders from across the city,
also heads a major homeowners group in northwest Detroit called the
Schaefer-7/8-Lodge Association. Blackmon said he isn't against
marijuana usage for sick individuals, but he just wants the shops to
be properly regulated.

"When this marijuana stuff got out of control we had people from
Palmer Woods, the east side, University District, Bagley, they all
started e-mailing and it grew," Blackmon said. "People started getting
frustrated with the marijuana shops that kept popping up around their
houses and schools."

Hollowell said the city is aware of several dispensaries that are
clustered in a particular area, like 7 Mile, 8 Mile and Grand River

"There are other areas, but as we look at an overall map, there are
clusters and those are the areas that we do focus on," he said. "We
started out focusing in on the facilities that are in drug-free zones
and then to the areas where there are these clusters. We've been
successful in the closure rate, but there's more to do."

Hollowell said the city has a dedicated unit of seven attorneys in its
legal department that specifically focuses on dispensary-related
issues, at both the enforcement phase and the licensing and regulatory

Earlier this month, petition language that would legalize marijuana
for recreational uses was turned in to the Secretary of State with the
hope of appearing on the 2018 ballot. Hollowell said the city is aware
of the effort and is monitoring it appropriately in case it appears on
the ballot and is eventually passed.

"A number of states have legalized medicinal marijuana or legalized
marijuana, even not for medical purposes," Hollowell said. "There are
models from other states out there in how that's been regulated."
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MAP posted-by: Matt