Detroit is Michigan’s biggest city.

And while it’s made a comeback, it still has its fair share of problems. Allowing recreational marijuana sales in the city would help it to further thrive.

Yet two days ago, the Detroit City Council voted unanimously to extend an existing temporary ban on recreational marijuana businesses until at least March 31.

So why is there still no recreational marijuana in Detroit!?

Rewind to November 2019

Honestly, the whole thing is complicated.

Last year, LARA’S Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) set an opt-out date deadline of November 1st for communities that didn’t wish to sell recreational marijuana.

Despite warnings from LARA, the Detroit City Council failed to opt out by this date. In the meantime, Detroit businesses seeking recreational marijuana licenses began submitting applications.

Then on November 12th, the council passed a temporary ban that would run through January 31st of this year.

In the meantime, several Detroit businesses had submitted applications for recreational marijuana. They believe LARA is obligated to issue them licenses and are suing them in a Court of Claims.

We’ll have to see how that plays out.

So Why Extend the Ban?

The members of the City Council feel that they need to set a standard for inclusion. And they need more time to do it.

This effort is led by City Councilman James Tate. Tate stresses that this massive money-making industry should have a pathway for residents of the city to be gainfully employed.

That means more than pushing a mop or working security at a dispensary.

“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,” Tate says.

“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.”

In other words, Tate wants to take this extra time to create legislation that would remove barriers to entry that impact mostly people of color.

This certainly makes a lot of sense.

But while they’re working out logistics, there’s one big problem. The strong presence of the black market.

Detroit’s Black Market

By 2015, the number of unlicensed marijuana dispensaries operating inside Detroit’s 140-square-mile border was estimated at over 150.

An increase in law enforcement has put a dent in proliferation. Still, many of these businesses continue to operate. And they’re not always running out of brick-and-mortar locations.

To make matters worse, Detroit has experienced increased violence already this year. Since the beginning of 2020, there have been a total of 17 homicides and 32 nonfatal shootings.

And according to Detroit Police Chief James Craig, black-market marijuana is responsible for “most” of this increase.

What No Recreational Marijuana in Detroit Means

Opponents to the ban feel that what’s killing people is not marijuana, but rather the prohibition of it. Without places in the city where folks can consume marijuana recreationally, people will continue to find it on the black market and it will, therefore, thrive.

They also feel that the Detroit City Council has been dragging their heels.

One of the requirements of the 2018 voter-passed recreational marijuana legalization was the creation of a Social Equity Program that would encourage industry participation by those who have been disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition and enforcement.

The City Council has had a year to create this, but still have no working draft.

So while many opponents to the ban agree that an economic development opportunity to benefit Detroit residents is crucial, they also note that the city and its residents are ironically losing millions of dollars in economic development for every week they fail to implement the recreational adult-use licensing program.

There Are No Simple Answers

Who knows how much longer will there be no recreational marijuana in Detroit.

It’s completely logical that the post-bankrupt city of Detroit wants to institute recreational marijuana in the right way versus the fastest way.

Yet, crime is increasing and the city is losing a lot of money in the process of trying to determine just what the right way is.

We’re in the business of cannabis marketing, not litigation. But from where we’re standing, it’s impossible to say one is right and one is wrong.

We just hope they figure it out soon.

For more up-to-date information on cannabis issues in Detroit and beyond, keep checking back with us.