Detroit Ballot Initiative May Allow Recreational Marijuana Sales Soon


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UPDATE: 11.25.2020

The City Council of Michigan’s biggest city unanimously approved an adult-use marijuana ordinance on Tuesday. The ordinance will allow Detroit to compete with other municipalities, many of which opted in for allowing recreational facilities months ago. Although the city has a late start, it does have one advantage over other municipalities: Detroit is one of the first cities in Michigan to allow designated consumption lounges.


Detroit has taken its time drafting and passing its recreational marijuana ordinance, making sure to take care of Detroiters above all else. The city will begin accepting applications from “Detroit Legacy” applicants on January first, 2021. 

Detroit could delay recreational marijuana sales through 2021, but lawmakers and citizens are hoping an ambitious ballot initiative will accelerate the process.

Detroit is lagging behind the region when it comes to the recreational marijuana industry. Officials have temporarily banned the businesses from opening in Detroit, and may even extend the ban into next year. The ban has already been extended once, as the original end date was supposed to be March 31st, 2020.

With nearly 30 percent of it’s land areas being vacant, the recreational cannabis industry could improve Detroit’s local economy immensely. The dense population, affordable real estate and convenient location has drawn lots of attention to the area. Bricks + Mortar Group has sold several facilities in Detroit, and continues to receive inquiries about purchasing property within the city on a daily basis.      

"The ban was Detroit’s plan to ensure a social equity program is put into place before recreational dispensaries are allowed."

-James Tate, Detroit Councilmember

The social equity program will allow Black Detroiters who have been harmed by the War on Drugs to participate in the new economy. The ban was extended earlier this year, and may be extended again.. for another six months. This means Detroit may not see recreational cannabis stores until 2022 or later.

That puts Detroit far behind many other municipalities in the state. Recreational cannabis businesses, where any adult over the age of 21 can buy cannabis legally, have opened in the past year in Ferndale, Ann Arbor, Inkster, River Rouge, and Hazel Park. There are currently 37 marijuana dispensaries in Detroit, all of which are at a disadvantage due to the ban. They are limited to selling only medical marijuana products, which is hurting both the businesses and the city itself. 

The attorney who represents several medical marijuana businesses, including The Reef and Utopia Gardens, says the ban extension is harming her clients. The businesses have filed a lawsuit against the city of Detroit. They were pre-approved to sell recreational marijuana, and believe they should be allowed to sell adult-use products. 

Former Michigan State Senator Virgil Smith is gathering signatures to put the issue on the November ballot. He would need to collect 9,000 signatures by the end of the month, but in a city of over 670,000 people, it may be easier than it sounds.

Michigan residents voted to allow recreational marijuana sales in 2018. As of January, 2020, there were 27 adult-use dispensaries throughout the state. By 2021, Michigan is projected to make over one billion dollars in recreational marijuana sales alone. It’s no wonder Detroit business owners feel as though they are being left behind.

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