Detroit pot shops are dropping like flies. Since the Motor City added new regulations to their relatively relaxed medical marijuana industry in March of 2016, all of the city’s 283 dispensaries have been operating illegally. In an effort to dwindle that number down to the city mandated 50 fully licensed shops, Detroit officials have been obtaining court orders and putting city padlocks on the doors of pot providers.
According to the Detroit Free Press, an additional 51 dispensaries are in line to meet their demise in coming weeks, while only 5 applicants have been approved to operate under the new regulations.
Most of the issues concerning the new rules have a set of barriers that make it almost impossible to find a suitable dispensary location. According to Detroit corporation counsel Melvin Butch Hollowell, Motor City pot shops aren’t allowed to set up “within a 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.”
Prospective licensees can apply to the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals to try and work around those strict guidelines, but with churches, parks and liquor stores throughout the city, the regulations have made life hard for Detroit dispensary owners looking to go legit.
Still, Hollowell says the regulations are the only way for the city to properly protect residents and serve medical marijuana patients at the same time.
"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 told the Free Press. "There was very significant public input in this process."
But with medical marijuana legislation throughout the Midwest lagging behind the rest of the country, Detroit’s pot shops have served as a beacon for patients in need as far away as neighboring Ohio. So while Detroit city officials are looking to protect local residents, they could be preventing a huge swath of Americans from getting the medicine that they need.