Pubdate: Sun, 16 Jul 2017
Source: Detroit Free Press (MI)
Copyright: 2017 Detroit Free Press
Author: Katrease Stafford


An initiative to amend Detroit's medical marijuana ordinance to allow
dispensaries to operate near liquor stores, child-care centers and
parks could appear on the November ballot, after a group behind the
effort submitted thousands of signatures backing the measure.

Citizens for Sensible Cannabis spokesman Jonathan Barlow confirmed his
group submitted petitions late last month seeking to amend Chapter 24
of the city's code.

Elections Director Daniel Baxter said the group met the threshold of
required signatures and his department has since turned the initiative
over to the Detroit City Council, which is expected to consider it

The council also is expected to receive an update on the city's
medical marijuana efforts, according to its Tuesday meeting agenda.
Baxter said the council has to consider the initiative before it's
placed on the ballot because "it is part of the initiative petition

"It's now in their hands," Baxter said. "If they choose not to act on
it, it goes back to the Election Commission to determine whether it
meets all the legal requirements, and if it does, it goes on the
ballot for November."

Baxter said council members have 60 days to act on the initiative and
they also have the right to choose to reject it or place something on
the ballot themselves.

The effort to amend the ordinance comes a year after it took effect
March 1, 2016.

According to a copy of the petition, the amendments would establish
the following:

* Opts Detroit into the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act and
establishes standards to regulate caregiver centers through the city's
Building, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department regarding
issuance, renewal and revocation. It also removes the jurisdiction of
Detroit's Board of Zoning Appeal.

* Dispensaries will be allowed to open within 500 feet of another
dispensary. They would also be allowed to open within 500 feet of
exempt religious institutions where religious services are regularly
conducted. The current ordinance requires facilities to be more than
1,000 feet from churches and other dispensaries.

* They would be allowed to open near liquor, beer/wine stores,
child-care centers, arcades and parks. The current ordinance does not
allow them to be open near any of them.

* Dispensaries would be allowed to stay open until 9 p.m. Currently,
they're required to close by 8 p.m.

Richard Clement, top aide to Council President Pro Tem George
Cushingberry Jr., said an array of individuals are backing the
measure, including former dispensary owners who were shut down, owners
in the process of getting closed and those who are planning to reopen
in the city.

Barlow declined to say who is backing the initiative but said more
information on the effort is forthcoming.

Barlow said his organization also has submitted petitions to amend
Chapter 61 of the city's code to allow growers and "secure
transporters" to open within the city's M1-5 industrial districts. It
would also allow processors, "provisioning centers" and safety
compliance facilities to be permitted in additional business and
industrial districts -- B1-5 and M1-5.

But, Baxter said, the initiative to amend Chapter 61 will not appear
on the ballot.

"Based upon what we've seen thus far, the one to amend Chapter 61 is
not valid," Baxter said. "The state zoning and enabling act precludes
local jurisdictions from rezoning through ballot initiatives, meaning
you can't circulate. The only entity that has that authority is City

Barlow said his organization is seeking further clarification.

Detroit corporation counsel Melvin Butch Hollowell previously told the
Free Press that 283 dispensaries were identified in the city last year
as operating illegally.

According to the city's website, 172 shops have been shut down.

"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 also said at the time that an additional 51 were in the
pipeline to be closed. That would bring the closures up to 218 and a
step closer to the goal laid out by officials to have only 50 citywide.

Hollowell declined to comment on the November initiative.

Councilman James Tate, who originally introduced the ordinance in
2015, said there were other things he wanted to include that were even
"more strict" but he believes what's in place right now works and has
been successful.

"There hasn't been any proof or display of proof that shows it's not
working properly," Tate said. "Any time you try to limit conversation
about what's happening in people's neighborhoods, that's never good
and I'm never going to be in favor of that. Based on what I'm hearing,
I would be in opposition and more likely be vocally in

Tate said he introduced the ordinance two years ago because he
believed the city became over-saturated with dispensaries.

"You would have four or five in one corner," Tate recalled. "...
There's nothing we have in the city of Detroit that's that
over-saturated or overpopulated whether it's a CVS or a McDonald's. If
you look at the dispensaries, many of them are not owned by residents
of the city of Detroit. It's a multipronged issue but if someone feels
like it's not the best move on their behalf, they have the right to
utilize the process of law whichever way they feel is right."

Cushingberry, who was the lone no vote against the ordinance in
October 2015, said he believes it deserves a second look.

"All of it may be unconstitutional and in violation of the federal
Constitution and FCC as a restrain on trade because it interferes with
interstate commerce," Cushingberry said. "In addition to that, you
can't treat one set of pharmacies one way and another set another way.
If you're going to say that it's medicine, then people need to be able
to have a pharmacy. You can't have a pharmacy that's like CVS and then
tell everybody else their pharmacy can't be there."
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