Detroit Approves Ordinance to License Dispensaries

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Detroit’s medical marijuana industry received a big boost Tuesday with the passage of an ordinance that allows the city to license marijuana dispensaries.

The 6-1 vote gives Detroit the power to establish licensing guidelines, inspection requirements, a fee schedule and penalties – in essence helping to legitimize the scores of unregulated dispensaries that currently exist in the city.

Under the ordinance, all dispensaries will have to obtain a license from the city or shut down. While some – or perhaps many – existing dispensaries won’t be able to meet the regulations and will therefore have to close, the move will stabilize the environment for those that can make the transition.

Dispensaries will be subject to inspections and limits on hours of operation, and owners will have to submit to a background check.

The next step comes Thursday, when the council is scheduled to vote on zoning ordinances that will determine how close dispensaries can be to schools, parks, liquor stores and houses of worship.

The move is a promising development for Michigan’s cannabis sector, which received what seemed to be a death blow in 2013 when the state Supreme Court ruled that medical marijuana dispensaries are illegal. Detroit police have largely ignored the court’s decision, and now the city boasts roughly 150 dispensaries, according to a recent report by Loveland Technologies, a property mapping company.

The state could finally move to legitimize dispensaries as well.

Last week, Michigan’s House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill that would legalize dispensaries and other cannabis businesses. That measure is now up for debate in the Senate.