Advance Notice: Briefs

After delays, Detroit reopens recreational marijuana license process

By: - September 29, 2022 9:42 am

James Tate and Mike Duggan | city of Detroit

Nearly four years after the recreational use of marijuana was approved by state voters, the city of Detroit — after fits and starts — has re-opened its application process for the first phase of capped recreational marijuana licenses. 

“We are going to make sure there is equity in this process for Detroiters,” said Mayor Mike Duggan.

The application process closes on Saturday for entities interested in being an adult-use retailer, microbusiness and designated consumption establishment.

Half of city licenses will be awarded to social equity applicants. It will issue a total of 160 licenses over three phases of applications, with the first 60 licenses being awarded in Phase One.

After 69% of the electorate supporting the state-wide recreational marijuana measure in 2018, Detroit’s recreational marijuana ordinance was approved in 2020. 

But there have been delays. 

James Tate | city of Detroit

In 2021, U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman suspended an ordinance that gives preferences to certain residents who want to get into the marijuana business based on years of residency and other factors. In response, created two pipelines for potential cannabis entrepreneurs — one for those using Michigan’s social equity program and one for everybody else. The judge then reversed course on the ruling. 

Earlier this year, companies that own two medical marijuana dispensaries in the city sued for being excluded from the application process. However, in August, a Wayne County Judge Leslie Kim Smith motioned for removal of the injunction blocking the application process from opening. 

To qualify as a social equity applicant under the law, an applicant must be a qualified resident of Detroit or another community determined to be disproportionately impacted by the historical prohibition on marijuana. A business that is at least 51% owned by such a person can also qualify as a social equity applicant.

City Council President Pro Tem James Tate, who led the legislative body’s effort to create the operating ordinance, agreed with Duggan. 

“Getting to this point has been an overly protracted process dating back to 2020 when the first ordinance was unanimously approved by Detroit City Council,” said Tate. “Now with the lawsuits and the failed ballot initiatives seeking to overturn our ordinance behind us, Detroiters and other equity applicants will have a fair opportunity to compete for adult-use licenses in a city that welcomes all to participate in the multi-million-dollar adult-use cannabis industry.”


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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.