Detroiters To Determine Future of Medical Marijuana Policy

What are the marijuana proposals on Detroit’s November ballot and what would they mean?

Jake Neher/WDET

The upcoming election in Detroit could have a big impact on the medical marijuana landscape in the city.

Detroiters will vote on two proposals related to the city’s medical marijuana ordinance on November 7th. They would allow dispensaries to open near places such as liquor stores and places of worship. And they would create legal protections for grow facilities.

It’s an issue that has sparked tension between patients who benefit from marijuana and need safe access, residents who don’t want pot shops or grow facilities in their neighborhoods, and a budding industry in the city.

Would these proposals help sort this all out? Or would they exacerbate the city’s struggle to deal with these issues?

A number of people close to the issue, as well as experts on the issue locally and statewide, join Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson to help sort out what the proposals are and what they would mean for the city.

“We’re agnostic as it relates to the product,” says Melvin “Butch” Hollowell, corporation counsel for the City of Detroit. “The genie’s out of the bottle as it related to that. It’s really just a question about how does it impact neighborhoods and making sure it’s well-regulated… The neighborhoods have to be respected. And they probably weren’t when it first started.”

Former state Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) also joins the conversation to talk about the proposals, as well as an effort he’s working on to legalize recreational marijuana statewide and regulate it like alcohol. Irwin is also a candidate for state Senate in 2018

“If we’re going to keep this out of the neighborhoods, we’ve got to create a viable commercial license opportunity,” says Irwin. “Because right now, with it being illegal, that’s what pushed so much of this activity into the neighborhoods.”

Henderson also speaks with Jonathan Barlow of Citizens for Sensible Cannabis Reform, the group that collected signatures to put these questions on the ballot, as well City Councilman James Tate, who introduced the marijuana ordinance that the proposals would change. 

“I’m a ‘no,’ personally,” says Tate, who represents District 1 in the Northwest side of Detroit. “The fact that this will allow for these particular establishments to be right next to daycare centers is a problem for me.”

“I haven’t seen any crime stats or any data that says any of these (marijuana provisioning centers) are deteriorating or causing this much more elevation in crime,” says Barlow. “We’re actually dealing with an industry that’s trying to create safe routes to school and safe atmospheres in their communities. They’re one of the most community-minded industries that you have.”

Click on the audio player above to hear the full conversation.


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    Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.