Detroit City Council President Pro Tempore James Tate speaks at last Tuesday’s meeting, on April 5, 2022. To his left, Council President Mary Sheffield and Councilman Coleman Young II confer.

Two years after the state first legalized it, the Detroit City Council has finally approved an ordinance to license adult use cannabis sales and production in city limits, a move that residents and social equity advocates have long been clamoring for. 

The vote passed 8-1, with Councilmember Mary Water casting the sole no vote.

President Pro Tempore James Tate, who authored the ordinance, set the ordinance to go into effect on Apr. 20, when applicants can apply to open processing and cultivation sites, as well as a dispensary or a cannabis lounge. He said this ordinance is a good first step to solving the licensing disparities in the city.

[Read the ordinance as passed.]

“We hope to do everything we can to ensure that we’re bringing the best to the table and bringing back as much as we can for the residents in the city of Detroit,” Tate said.

The ordinance increases the number of adult use retail licenses from 76, which were proposed in earlier drafts, to 100, and creates a lottery system to award licenses to applicants who have not found a location to operate.

Although adult use weed sales was legalized in Michigan in 2018, Detroit’s history with recreational use has been complicated. City officials hoped to make room for lifelong Detroit residents and working class residents with its licensing process, particularly Black residents affected by the War on Drugs, and working class residents with its licensing process. 

Councilman Coleman Young II said that minority representation in these spaces matter.

“We have to do all we can to make sure that we address the cries, the pain, hurt, and economic deprivation of those who lost jobs, education and their lives due to the drug war,“ Young said. “An entire gain of the Civil Rights Movement was wiped out due to the invisible punishment known as the War on Drugs. In the Blackest city in America, this absolutely matters.”

Detroit’s Council first attempted an adult use licensing ordinance in Nov. 2020, but that measure was struck down last July after a federal judge said the ordinance “gives an unfair, irrational and likely unconstitutional advantage to long-term Detroit residents over all other applicants.”

As a result, recreational licenses have been barred within Detroit city limits, although it continues to approve medical licenses.

Several business owners and advocates in the state say that Detroit missing out on the $1.1 billion industry is leaving them behind as the city is missing out on millions of dollars annually that end up being spent at surrounding Detroit communities such as River Rouge, Ferndale, Center Line, and Hazel Park. The four communities totaled $1.1 million in tax receipts last year.

During Tuesday’s discussion of the ordinance 23 public comments were submitted, from normal residents to business owners and applicants who have been waiting to be approved by the city. Christian Perine, owner of Blew Amsterdam LLC, said she plans to show how the cannabis industry can have a positive benefit to the city, such as rebuilding homes and commercial properties that have fallen into decline. She was one of the first black women to obtain an adult-use consumption license in the state.

“Black people in the industry certainly want to help Detroit,” Perine said. “We should be the ones that help take care of our city.”

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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.