Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan delivered his State of the City speech on Tuesday, February 23; in it he delivered a controversial accolade for a medical marijuana dispensary foe and received multiple rebukes from protesters representing the Black Lives Matter organization.
Detroit will begin the licensing process for medical marijuana distribution centers, or dispensaries, on March 1. In advance of that licensing process the city's distribution centers report raids and intimidation by the Detroit Police Department. The pair of ordinances controlling the licensing and zoning rules were initiated by Detroit's church and civic groups, and are strongly opposed by the medical marijuana community.
You know where Mayor Duggan stands on the issue when you know where he stood to deliver his State of the City speech on Tuesday: the Second Ebenezer Church in Detroit.
The Mayor later introduced the pastor of Second Ebeneezer Church as a member of the independent Police Commission, a Board whose duties had been suspended by the Emergency Financial Manager (EMF) and restored by Council in December.
At the onset of his speech the Mayor introduced each City Council Member and made reference to their accomplishments: immigration reform, fiscal responsibility, restoring harmony to the Council. The very last Council Member to be introduced was James Tate, the Council spokesperson for the church interest in the dispensary negotiations.
Mayor Duggan described Tate as "The man responsible for the fact that we're finally going to start shutting down marijuana dispensaries in the city of Detroit."
The mention from the Mayor brought open laughter from other Council members and muted applause from the audience.
"When the Mayor mentioned marijuana dispensaries and Council Member Tate some people gasped, some clapped. It was a mixed reaction," said Americans for Safe Access-Michigan co-founder Brandy Zink, who was at Second Ebeneezer Church for the address.
The audience's response to Tate's introduction is the most quiet of all the Council members, as the video of the event illustrates.
"I was surprised at the tone of the introduction of Council Member Tate," Zink added. "He was introduced as the guy who wants to shut things down. It seemed out of context when the rest of the Mayor's speech was about rebuilding the community, resurrecting the city and embracing small business."
Several outbursts from protesters can be heard on the video of the Mayor's speech. Some protesters identified themselves as members of the organization Black Lives Matter. "Police literally dragged some of them away while they were still screaming," said Zink.
The dispensary issue
During a presentation in December of 2015, Detroit's Council was told by the law and police departments there were in excess of 211 medical marijuana distribution centers in the city.
As The Compassion Chronicles report illustrated 75 different zones where a medical marijuana dispensary, or 'caregiver center' as the Detroit ordinances refer to them, could be licensed, based on a map of city plots that conform to the zoning regulations and with a mind to the mandated 1,000 foot buffer zone between distribution centers.
Since that report the City made changes to their proposed ordinances and passed them. The added language allows for clustering of CC's in industrial zones and the institution of a waiver process for certain buffer zone restrictions. Although more than 75 legitimate areas may exist, there is no guarantee that any commercial property is available in those zones, nor is there a guarantee that the city will issue any more than a handful of CC licenses.
Mayor Duggan's enthusiastic sentence about "shutting down the marijuana dispensaries" is a public statement that summarizes the private sentiment being expressed to Detroit business owners who have inquired about the licensing process and Zoning Board of Appeals variance hearings.
"Don't even bother," is the statement one Detroit dispensary operator said he received from the City Clerk's office when inquiring about the forms necessary to apply for a zoning variance.
"It is impossible to believe there is integrity in the process when legitimate applicants are facing this degree of resistance," said Jamie Lowell of the MILegalize organization.
Source: The Compassion Chronicles