Pubdate: Fri, 15 Sep 2017
Source: Detroit Free Press (MI)
Copyright: 2017 Detroit Free Press
Author: Katrease Stafford


Two initiatives that would amend Detroit's medical marijuana ordinance
to allow dispensaries to open near liquor stores, and grow facilities
to operate legally, will appear on the November ballot, after a Wayne
County circuit judge's ruling earlier this week.

If approved by voters in November, the changes could have a
wide-reaching impact on the city's budding marijuana industry.

Detroit corporation counsel Melvin Butch Hollowell told the Free Press
that the city respects the right of voters to decide but concerns have
been raised about the measures, particularly the one that would impact
zoning regulations.

"The voters are in charge and that's the way it should be," Hollowell
said. "...We do have some concerns for sure, particularly on the one
that deals with zoning questions. The Supreme Court has ruled that a
city's zoning ordinance cannot be amended by an initiative petition.
We have some concerns about that but we'll deal with that when it comes up."

Citizens for Sensible Cannabis, the group that circulated petitions
for the initiatives, filed a lawsuit Aug.15 against Detroit City Clerk
Janice Winfrey and the City of Detroit Election Commission after the
parties said a measure to change zoning regulations by amending
Chapter 61 of the city's code, could not appear on the ballot.

Citizens for Sensible Cannabis spokesman Jonathan Barlow said Friday
that Chief Judge Robert J. Colombo, Jr. ruled Tuesday both proposals
will appear on the ballot.

Elections Director Daniel Baxter also confirmed to the Free Press
Friday that the two proposals will go before voters Nov. 7.

"This is not only a victory for what our efforts are, this is a
victory for the industry," Barlow said.

The effort to amend the ordinance comes a year after it took effect
March 1, 2016. The ordinance was originally introduced by Councilman
James Tate two years ago after hundreds of dispensaries opened in the

The first proposal seeks to amend Chapter 24 of the city's code and
would allow dispensaries to operate near liquor stores, child-care
centers and parks.

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.

The second proposal would 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.

Baxter initially told the Free Press in July that the proposal seeking
to amend Chapter 61 wasn't valid.

"The state zoning and enabling act precludes local jurisdictions from
rezoning through ballot initiatives, meaning you can't circulate,"
Baxter said at the time.

Barlow said Colombo disagreed.

"What 61 is, is it gives an opportunity for us to be in line with the
state as well as to allow multiple licenses to enter into Detroit
now," Barlow said. "So not only do you have dispensary licenses now
that are potentially looking to come into Detroit but also grow
licenses, transporter licenses, testing licenses as well as processor
licenses. Which if you look at the industry as a whole, or what we
call an economy, more Detroit residents should be able to apply for
opportunities to acquire and obtain licenses in the revenue generating
portions of this industry and new economy."

Hollowell said the amendment would require the city to opt into the
new state law changes that were made in the latter part of last year.
Hollowell said the state law allows for five different types of
licenses: One for dispensaries, grow facilities, processors to make
products for ingestion, secure transporters and safety compliance.

Hollowell said for the cultivation, or grow facilities, the state law
allows individuals to obtain a license to grow up to 500, 1,000 or in
some cases, as many as 1,500 plants.

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, 175 shops have been shut down.

Hollowell said if approved, the ordinances would change the "standards
that the city has been operating under," partially by allowing the
operations to operate in a greater number of commercial areas.

"It also takes some of the discretion out of the hands of the
Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department and the
Board of Zoning Appeals," Hollowell said.

The decision to place both of the measures on the ballot came the same
day the state Department of Licensing and Regulation decided that
existing medical marijuana dispensaries will get a reprieve from being
immediately shuttered.

But officials warned that dispensary owners could harm their chance
for a license from the state if they continue to operate past Dec.

Barlow said his organization "highly doubts" that what's happening at
the state level will impact the initiatives moving forward.

"There's nothing the state will do, can do, or should do in order to
jeopardize what we're doing," Barlow said. "The state right now is
going through their normal procedures in order to determine what's the
best way to start to approve and create some lines of distinction
based off of what's gong on across the state. We're super duper
excited about being able to have the voters be able to decide."
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