October 21, 2015

A Breakdown Of Detroit’s Proposed Medical Marijuana Distribution Ordinance

October 21, 2015
detroit marijuana

detroit marijuanaThe Detroit City Council, and their sub-Commissions, have been moving with great speed to limit the number of medical marijuana distribution centers in the Motor City.

In one week the city’s Licensing Board met and voted to approve their portion of the new ordinance, then the full Council approved their recommendations, then the Zoning Commission took input from citizens, heard an introduction from Councilman James Tate and interviewed the representatives of the city legal department. The debate is serious, the consequences dire, and the issue is pressing.

At stake: the fate of the city’s estimated 150 medical marijuana distribution centers.


Detroit proposes to take the city’s existing medical marijuana dispensaries, rename them as medical marihuana caregiver centers (Centers), change their business model, make them all reapply and prove zoning and licensing compliance. All principals will have to undergo background checks and have their criminal history evaluated.

The proposed ordinance contains two components, Licensing and Zoning, each with their own rules and progression through Committee process. Licensing language was passed out of Committee on Monday October 12 and approved by the full Council in a 6-1 vote on the following day (Cushingberry was the lone NO vote). The Zoning Commission met once on October 15 for an information gathering session that was not a formal hearing, per statements issued by Commissioners. The next scheduled meeting is October 29 at 5:30 in the 13th Floor auditorium, Coleman A. Young Municipal Building, 2 Woodward Avenue, Detroit.

VIEW IT HERE! Detroit’s Zoning portion of the ordinance

The Zoning portion of the ordinance would allow special places known as Medical Marihuana Caregiver Centers to exist as a conditional land use in the B2, B4, M1, M2, M3, and M4 Districts. Both portions ban Butane Hash Oil from the proposed caregiver centers.

The new Ordinance would restrict signage and require it to be removed after property is abandoned.  It would allow a single caregiver to dispense medical marijuana to their five allotted patients under state law, and that is it.

The current business model used by dispensaries in cities all across the state, including Detroit, is to provide medical marijuana to anyone who possesses a medical marijuana patient or caregiver card. Cities like Flint and Ypsilanti, who license the Centers and have (in Ypsi) for five years, have ordinances licensing dispensaries and they, too, spell out that one caregiver serves his five patients only. That is a business model that would not sustain any storefront operation, and the cities who license these distribution businesses know it.

There are significant buffer zones contained within the proposed Detroit ordinance. Per Sec. 61-3-354 (b), Centers must be:

(1) One thousand (1,000) radial feet from any zoning lot occupied by any elementary,middle, or high school;

(2) One thousand (1,000) radial feet from any zoning lot occupied by any park, playlot,playfield, playground, recreation center, or youth activity center as defined in Sec. 61-16-212 of this Chapter;

(3) One thousand (1,000) radial feet from any zoning lot occupied by any religious institution identified as exempt by the City Assessor;

(4) Two thousand (2,000) radial feet from any zoning lot occupied by another medicalmarihuana caregiver center or Controlled Use.

The definition of ‘Controlled Use’ means any topless bar, beer/wine store or package liquor dealer. With a 4,000-foot buffer zone (2,000 feet in one direction and 2,000 feet in the other) from booze shacks it will be extremely difficult to find a conforming property that isn’t an abandoned field in a blighted area or an industrial district. But, that was Council’s point- to create zoning laws that exclude any decent place to locate your business and make an ironclad statement that there will be no variances.

Consider the math. One mile is 5,300 feet. A 4,000 foot buffer zone is nearly a one mile stretch. Try and find a mile of Detroit street that doesn’t have a liquor store or beer vendor, especially the Mile roads and central thoroughfares. Restaurants have liquor licenses and could be defined as a controlled use. Would caregiver centers need to be 2,000 feet away from all restaurants that serve beer? That eliminates the entire downtown area for any caregiver center, unless you measure the distance by height, which might allow a caregiver to operate in the middle levels of the Renaissance Center’s central tower.

VIEW IT HERE! Detroit’s Licensing portion of the ordinance

The Licensing portion of the Ordinance contains many rules that govern who gets licenses, how much they pay and how the caregiver centers can operate.

Regarding the fees paid per center, the language in Sec. 24-13-1 (a)(5) says, “Authorize fees to cover the cost to the city of licensing medical marihuana caregiver centers in an amount sufficient for the city to recover its cost of the licensing program.” Although other taxation schemes were discussed to raise revenue for the city, the language seems to not provide for that option.

Licensing also implies that all patients growing in their homes and all caregivers growing in their homes must register as a home occupation with the city. Sec. 24-13-4 (a) reads: “Except for home occupations allowed under Chapter  61 of this Code (the Detroit Zoning Ordinance) no person shall dispense, cultivate or provide medical marihuana under the Act except at a medical marihuana caregiver center.”

Patients who grow their own should medicine should not have to register as a home occupation. Caregivers should not have to, either. Transfers from a caregiver to his/her patient should take place in any private location except the specific areas where possession is limited under the language of the Act. Restricting those activities is a violation of the common interpretation of the Ter Beek Opinion; if a patient is denied a home occupation license to grow medicine in Detroit, it’s a guaranteed trip to an Appellate or Supreme Courtroom.

Existing Centers (dispensaries) can stay open but will be required to register with the city and begin the process of application immediately. Prospective businesses are expected to apply for zoning approval within 30 days of the ordinance’s effective date. If no zoning, permit or licensing applications or approvals for the business have been denied and the applicant has made “significant progress” within 60 days of the issuance date, the process can continue. Within 7 days of receiving a building permit they must apply for a medical marihuana caregiver center license; if the BSEED concludes there is no zoning infringement, they can be issued a license within 60 days of obtaining their building permit.

Anyone receiving a caregiver center license is required to have an inspection within 30 days; must provide details of the building’s security and floor plans; must explain their plan for on-site storage of marijuana; they must give a “Description of the process for tracking quantities and inventory controls for medical marihuana in any form including products received from outside sources.” (Sec. 24-13-6(c)(1); they have to have a plan for disposing of unsold inventory and procedures for testing marijuana for contaminants , including mold; they must agree to label every gram and crumb sold or transferred to patients and providing the medicine in an “enclosed package”. No drive-through, walk-up or window access is permitted, and hours of operation must fall between 10am-8pm each day.

The Detroit Police Department has to run background checks on the business owner, all partners and all employees, and certify that none of them have been convicted of a felony in the last 10 years and have never been convicted of a felony for illegal drugs or an assaultive crime, fraud, embezzlement or dishonesty. Only Board Presidents, CEOs, Executive Directors or persons of comparable position can apply on behalf of a corporation. The applicant, the operator and their employees must all prove that they are state-registered primary caregivers;

How many CEO’s are registered primary caregivers? I wonder if the Ilitch Corporation could meet such a standard. And Dan Gilbert?


The proposed Ordinance contains new definitions of actions that are not exactly corresponding to the definitions contained in the pending state law, or in current existing law set forth in 2008. They include:

detroit medical marijuana definitions

Proposed legislation in the Michigan Senate contains at least five different types of businesses related to the production, transport and distribution of marijuana. The City of Detroit’s ordinance language lumps several different activities under the single term ‘caregiver center,’ which is neither consistent with other communities nor is it consistent with current and proposed language in the MMMA. If accuracy is your goal, you keep consistent. If lumping everyone together under a single definition so you can act against them is your goal, this is what you do.

READER: This is the first in a multi-part series examining the details of the proposed Detroit medical marijuana distribution ordinance. Look for another installment on Thursday, October 22

Source: The Compassion Chronicles


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