Help Us Keep Reporting. Donate to Detroit Metro Times.

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.

It's a new era for marijuana in Michigan. Sign up for our weekly weed newsletter, delivered every Tuesday at 4:20 p.m.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.

Read the Digital Print Issue

July 29, 2020

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit