Strict Zoning Regulations Have Forced Over 100 Detroit Dispensaries to Close
Only two of over 260 new applicants have been approved to operate pot shops in the Motor City.
Published on March 20, 2017

When Detroit started accepting medical marijuana dispensary applications under the city’s new zoning regulations on March 1st, 2016 there were 283 operating pot shops throughout the Motor City. Since the regulations went into effect, more than 130 of those shops have been forced to close. Only two dispensaries have been granted the necessary licenses, and the city’s once booming cannabis industry is now reeling.

The zoning regulations passed by the City Council in 2015 went into effect over a year ago, but new data released by the city shows that in that time, Detroit received over 260 dispensary applications. However, they granted licenses to only two applicants.

In the same period of time, the city’s Building Safety Engineering & Environmental Department has shut down and boarded up over 130 of Detroit’s pre-regulation dispensaries. For medical marijuana patients, it signifies a significant loss of access.

“(Detroit) has the most exclusionary zoning practices of anything I’ve ever seen in the state,” Robin Schneider, executive director of the National Patient Rights Association, told the Detroit News. “I think the fact that patients still do not have access to licensed facilities is a disservice to patients.”

Detroit’s zoning regulations disqualify dispensaries that are too close to schools, childcare centers, arcades, and even “outdoor recreational facilities.” But even if caregivers can find a storefront or production facility that meets D-Town’s strict regulations, city officials are reportedly capping the licenses at 50. Detroit Corporation Counsel Melvin Butch Hollowell thinks that once the 50 pot shops are up and running, MMJ consumers won’t even notice the change.

“There will be an appropriate number of locations that will be made available for people to sell the medicine,” Hollowell said. “We just want to make sure that as they are opened, they are opening in an orderly fashion and meeting needs of patients required for treatment.”

For Simon Berro, the manager at Green Cross, Detroit’s first licensed pot shop (it opened in mid-February), the regulations were difficult to get through, but not enough to dissuade the dispensary from setting up shop.

“We went to the city. We listened to what they said. We followed their rules,” Berro said. “We took all precautions, and it was a vigorous process, but nonetheless, it worked out at the end.”

But not all caregivers will be so lucky, and for the about 150 dispensaries still operating without city sanction, every day is a crapshoot that could end with a city issued padlock on the door.

Zach Harris
Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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