December 21, 2015

The Details About The Detroit Medical Marijuana Dispensary Ordinance

December 21, 2015
detroit marijuana

detroit marijuanaIt may not start until March 1, 2016, but these are the facts you should know about the new medical marijuana dispensary ordinance passed by Detroit’s City Council last week.

Medical marijuana dispensaries, called Caregiver Centers (CC) in the Ordinance, must apply with the city for licensing. Applications will be taken from existing and prospective CCs begins on March 1, 2016. Existing businesses have a 30 day window in which to apply. They have to show “significant progress” within 60 days and must have completed the process within 60 days after receiving their building permit. Several other benchmarks apply, and those applicants who are late with payments may find themselves rejected, according to the language of the ordinance.

The fee structure is yet to be determined. The job is the responsibility of the Director of the BSEED, and the amount of licensing revenue generated will be determined by the amount of “the cost of issuance and the administration of the licensing regulations, and shall be approved by resolution of the City Council.”

CCs can be established in the B2, B4, M1, M2, M3 and M4 zoning districts. Prohibited areas include Traditional Main Street Overlay or Gateway Radial Thoroughfare Areas. CCs must provide one offstreet parking spot for every 200 square feet of the Center. They cannot be less than 1,000 feet from another CC, from a park recognized by the Recreation Department, from a religious institution which has received a tax exemption from the city, or from a businesses identified as a controlled use (topless clubs and liquor stores).

What about religious institutions that are shuttered and are no longer holding services? Or liquor licenses assigned to addresses where there are no business activities? Some of them still count, per the city’s Corporate Counsel in a Commission meeting. Imposing a 1,000 radial feet buffer zone from a defunct bar or from fallen-down churches? Only in Detroit.

If a business is within 1,000 feet from any of these land uses, the Board of Zoning Appeals allows for a variance process that could still allow the CC to establish or continue to operate. The city’s Buildings, Safety, Engineering and Environmental Department can also approve variances.

If, however, the parcel in question is less than 1,000 feet from the city-defined Drug Free Zones, that option is not available. No variance is allowed for parcels falling into these buffer zones, and there are a lot of them.

The federal Drug Free School Zone is more limited than the city’s version. The federal standard applies just to libraries and K-12 schools, essentially. The Detroit version cranks it up to include arcades, child care centers, youth activity centers, public housing, outdoor recreation areas and all educational institutions- including their properties, as was explained at a City Public Commission meeting in November.

In the industrial districts, CCs can be less than 1,000 feet from each other to allow for ‘clustering’ of business. The buffer zone from residential areas is waived in these industrial districts, except for the public housing provision of the Drug Free Zone.

What happens if you don’t follow the rules? The ordinance outlines the method Detroit will use to shut down the Centers that fail to comply: “Any premises, building or structure in which a medical marihuana caregiver center is regularly operated or maintained in violation of the standard included and incorporated in this Code shall constitute a public nuisance and shall be subject to a civil abatement proceedings initiated by the City of Detroit in a court of competent jurisdiction, in addition to the penalties authorized by this Chapter.”

I did receive a communication from a city official which carries this disclaimer:

“Please be advised that, as articulated by the Corporation Counsel and the Chief of Police during the Special Session, all existing medical marijuana businesses and any that begin operations in the future prior to obtaining a license and all requisite approvals from the city are unlawful. The City of Detroit reserves its right to enforce the law and will respond to any complaints that are received.”

Anyone that cultivates marijuana in a residence in the city of Detroit will be required to register as a home-based occupation, per the new ordinance. Licensing section 24-13-4 states: “Except for home occupations… no person shall dispense, cultivate or provide medical marijuana under the Act except at a medical marihuana caregiver center.”

Zoning says: “Cultivation of medical marihuana shall be permitted as a home occupation where the resident operating the business registers the home occupation with the (BSEED)…” That registration process involves inspection and approval by numerous city agencies.

Also, no butane hash oil, concentrates or edibles in the city, according to this portion of the definition ofmedical marihuana:

“This shall not include butane hash oil or marihuana in any form inconsistent with the definition of usable marijuana under state law.”

A conflict exists within the Detroit ordinance and proposed legislation facing the Michigan Senate. In the language of proposed medical marijuana dispensary bill HB 4209, as passed by the House of Representatives, state-registered medical marijuana caregivers are prohibited from either being owners or employees of any medical marijuana distribution or processing center. Detroit law mandates that the owner, operator and all employees of the must CC be card holding, registered caregivers (Sec. 24-13-6 (a8) ). In a new version of HB 4209 proposed by Senator Rick Jones in November, caregivers can be workers BUT NOT OWNERS of these businesses.

Detroit is backwards in their approach to cannabis, and it shows in their language. The Zoning portion of the ordinance references the Michigan Department of Community Health as the state overriding agency, when in fact that hasn’t been true for three years. The medical marijuana program is administered by the state Licensing And Regulatory Affairs Department, which is correctly referenced in the ordinance’s Licensing portion.


These links lead to the Detroit official website:


The map showing the allowable zoning areas is available HERE.


The Detroit ordinance contains two portions: LICENSING and ZONING.

These links lead to The Compassion Chronicles database, because sometimes things suddenly disappear from city websites.





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