Detroit leaders unveil proposal to allow marijuana sales in city

Almost a year since its legalization in Michigan, recreational cannabis will finally be making some inroads in Detroit.

City leaders and industry advocates made the joint announcement Monday afternoon, unveiling a new proposal that allows for the sale of cannabis in Detroit while also guaranteeing some of that business for longtime residents.

The Detroit City Council has held votes on allowing the sale of pot in the city before. But leaders decided to hold off until an ordinance that caters to bolstering small businesses in the city could be ensured.

Marijuana was first legalized for adult use following a 2018 ballot proposal. It took close to 11 months before the sale of cannabis could begin. Since then, cities have slowly begun issuing licenses to businesses around the state. 

Ann Arbor, River Rouge, and Inkster were among municipalities that hopped on the bandwagon early. Back in January, Detroit City Council members unanimously agreed to delay sales in the city. 

"This will allow us the opportunity to hash out all the details of our social equity program that is within the framework of the draft ordinance that we have right now," said Councilman James Tate January 21.

The social equity program will ensure legacy Detroiters receive first priority in their applications and discounts on city land.

However, not everyone in the pot business is excited about the proposed amendment to the city code.

"It needs to be a little more well-thought-out for the impact on the previous businesses as it stands right now, there are some existing businesses that might never get their medical recreational license," said Rush Hasan, who runs the Reef, a medical dispensary on 9 Mile. 

Some law offices even anticipate lawsuits against the city if the proposed ordinance goes through, arguing that some retailers already in the industry will be kept from securing a full license due to the preferential treatment.

Even amid the economic downturn that the pandemic has brought on Michigan, marijuana retailers have managed to stay afloat during the government shutdowns. Considered an essential service by state leaders, dispensaries remained open during the COVID-19 crisis.

RELATED: Detroit City Council delays recreational pot sales - for now

"Right now the medical marijuana industry is owned and operated by individuals who do not live in the City of Detroit," Tate said. "We have to make sure we create a pathway to sustainability and success for Detroiters."

Leaders will unveil the plan at 1 p.m. Monday at the 11th-floor atrium of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center.