A city council member has proposed that Detroit extend its decision to temporarily opt-out of Michigan’s newly legal recreational cannabis market while a plan to ensure local participation in the industry is created. The proposed ordinance, introduced by Councilman James Tate at a meeting of the council on Monday, would extend the city’s moratorium on commercial cannabis activity until March 31.
After Michigan voted to legalize the use of recreational cannabis in November 2018, local governments were given the opportunity to prohibit marijuana businesses from operating in their jurisdictions. Subsequently, the Detroit City Council passed a measure to opt-out of the legal cannabis industry until January 31, 2020. Tate’s proposed ordinance would extend that decision another two months.
Tate’s office said in a press release that the extension will allow his staff and local cannabis industry stakeholders more time to develop a social equity program that offers city residents an opportunity to participate in the newly legal marijuana market.
“It’s clear that Detroit’s medical marijuana industry is overwhelmingly owned and operated by individuals who don’t live in the city and take their dollars back to their communities,” said Tate. “It’s critical that we take the necessary time now to ensure that Detroit’s impending recreational marijuana industry will properly reflect the demographic of the city it’s located in. It’s not enough for Detroit residents to simply hold security jobs or floor sweeping in this industry within our city. Meaningful and sustainable access for Detroiters has to be the goal.”
But Denise A. Pollicella, an attorney who represents five businesses that are seeking licenses to operate recreational cannabis businesses in Detroit, opposed the delay.
“The City Council has had a year to work on this already and we don’t even have a working draft,” said Pollicella. “While I am absolutely all for this economic development opportunity to benefit Detroit residents, and particularly those who have been adversely impacted by the drug wars, the city and its residents are losing millions of dollars in economic development opportunity right now, and every week that they wait to implement the rec adult-use licensing program.”
Police Blame Pot Illicit Market for Violence
Just one day after Tate proposed to extend the moratorium on licensed cannabis activity in Detroit, the city’s police chief blamed the illicit marijuana trade for a spike in violence. Chief James Craig estimated that 60% of the recent shootings and homicides in the city were related to the marijuana illicit market.
“I had a meeting with (precinct investigators and Special Response Team members), and they said most of these shootings and homicides came from illegal marijuana sales,” Craig said on Tuesday. “That was kind of surprising: my staff tells me there are more shootings involving sales of black market marijuana than any other drug, including cocaine or heroin.”
Craig said the legalization of cannabis makes illicit transactions difficult to prosecute and unveiled a strategy to target guns carried by dealers instead.
“We know definitively that black-market sellers and buyers are carrying guns, many illegally,” Craig said. “When it comes to the marijuana itself, things are still vague; if we catch someone during a transaction, they could just say they gifted it if it’s under 2 ounces, and that’s legal.”
“But there’s nothing vague about whether it’s legal to carry a gun without a permit, so that’s what we’re focusing on,” he added. “We’re going to be aggressive about it, while still adhering to constitutional policing.”
The Detroit City Council could vote on Tate’s proposed ordinance as soon as next week.