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Detroit could delay recreational marijuana sales through 2021, but an ambitious ballot initiative aims to speed that up 

click to enlarge STEVE NEAVLING
  • Steve Neavling

Detroit is lagging behind the region when it comes to the recreational marijuana industry. Officials have temporarily banned the businesses from opening in Detroit — and could extend the ban into next year.

Councilmember James Tate says the ban was to ensure a social equity program is first put in place so that Black Detroiters harmed by the War on Drugs can participate in the new economy. The ban was extended earlier this year, and now it looks like Tate is seeking to extend it again for six more months. When all is said and done, Detroit might not see recreational cannabis stores until at least 2022.

That puts Detroit behind many other municipalities in the state. Cannabis businesses where any adult age 21 or older can buy legal weed have sprouted up in the past year in Ann Arbor, Ferndale, River Rouge, Inkster, and Hazel Park.

Attorney Denise Policella, who represents medical marijuana businesses including Utopia Gardens and The Reef, says the extension will harm her clients. The businesses filed a lawsuit against the city, saying they were pre-approved to sell recreational pot and should be allowed to sell.

"Detroit facilities are losing their shirts because of the competition from nearby cities who offer adult-use recreational marijuana, and I don’t think they’re going to make it," she told Deadline Detroit.

Former State Sen. Virgil Smith told the publication he's gathering signatures to put the issue on the November ballot, but that's a tall order: he would need to collect 9,000 signatures by the end of the month.

Michiganders voted to allow recreational marijuana sales in 2018.

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