Detroit, Mich. skyline with the MacArthur bridge leading to Belle Isle in the foreground. Credit: Bryan DeBus / Flickr

A group of Detroit medical dispensary owners failed to get a ballot initiative in place to repeal the city’s adult use ordinance. They are now suing the city over it.

The Citizens for Better Social Equity have filed suit in Wayne County Circuit Court against Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey in order to get their initiative on the ballot for the November 8, 2022 midterm elections. The group, backed by a group of dispensaries and created to eliminate the city’s new adult use ordinance that went into effect in April, allege the deadline was convoluted.

The original dismissal of the petition filed by the Department of Elections ruled the petitioners failed to meet the Apr. 20 deadline when they attempted to file it on May 20. However,  the current suit claims the ordinance went into effect at a later time than the deadline was meant to go into effect. 

Attorney Jeff Schroder, who represents Citizens for Better Social Equity, could not be reached for comment.

The new ordinance written by City Council was meant to address issues with both the first ordinance – struck down last year by a federal judge for sidelining certain residents – and to give Black Detroiters and those disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs a chance to break into the industry.

According to the filing, city law stipulates that anything passed by City Council with a two-thirds majority has an automatic 30-day window before an ordinance goes into “immediate effect” in order to create petitions and ballot initiatives. Originally the ballot was tossed out for missing the deadline entirely.

“There is no loophole in the charter that allows the Council to use the powers of the immediate effect Charter provision to shortcut the amount of time to obtain referendum signatures,” the suit alleges. “Defendant Janice Winfrey has failed to perform her duty to canvass the signatures and follow the remained of Article 12 of the City Charter in accordance with the city charter, the Home Rule City Act and other applicable law.”

The lawsuit coincides with two others filed in Detroit earlier this year, where medical operators are claiming the new ordinance would drive them out of business. As medical dispensaries are largely unable to become adult use facilities until 2027, many believe the ordinance would drive them out of business.

Medical sales have plummeted in recent months with adult use sales taking up the bulk of cannabis revenue in Michigan. Cannabis Regulatory Agency Director Andrew Brisbo reported medical sales have fallen 48% from a year ago to $23.3 million per month in May and adult-use sales have increased by 56% to $163.2 million per month in May.

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Trey Arline is Grown In’s Midwest Reporter. He was most recently with the Daily Herald, but has also reported for Vegas PBS, The Nevada Independent, and the Associated Press.