Detroit issues first round of licenses for adult-use cannabis businesses after 3-year delay

Issuing the licenses is a big step toward making the cannabis industry more equitable in Detroit

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click to enlarge Detroit issued its first licenses for recreational marijuana businesses. - Shutterstock
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Detroit issued its first licenses for recreational marijuana businesses.

Three years after adult-use cannabis sales began in Michigan, Detroit finally began issuing licenses Wednesday for retail businesses to open.

Of the 90 applications the city received, 33 were awarded a license to open a dispensary, microbusiness, or consumption lounge.

The licenses were awarded on the same day a federal judge denied a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction in a lawsuit against the city’s recreational marijuana ordinance.

“This is definitely a day for the history books,” Detroit Councilman James Tate, who introduced the city’s recreational cannabis ordinance, said at a news conference Thursday. “This has been a very, very, very challenging time to get to this point. Every step of the way, there was criticism, people said ‘you’re doing it wrong, you are trying to make something perfect that can’t be perfect. Why are you fighting? Why is this important? Just move on.’ Today is why we fight.”

Issuing the licenses is a big step toward making the cannabis industry more equitable in Detroit. The city adopted an ordinance that requires half of the licenses to be issued to people who live in communities, like Detroit, that have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.

The licenses are a long time coming. The Detroit City Council postponed issuing licenses until it could create an ordinance to make it easier for Detroiters to join the industry. What followed were several lawsuits and two separate ordinances, one of which was struck down in court in June 2021 because it gave licensing preferences to Detroiters.

The city’s second ordinance, which offers two tracks for licenses so that “equity” and “non-equity” applicants aren’t competing with each other, led to at least two lawsuits because the city prohibited medical cannabis dispensaries from getting a recreational license until 2027.

While there’s still a chance that one of those lawsuits could prevail, Detroit Corporation Counsel Conrad Mallett struck a positive tone, saying he doubts that litigation will prevent the new licensees from opening early next year.

“We’re going to fight this fight day in and day out for as long as we have to,” Mallett said. “We are not going to be intimidated by the number of the lawsuits or the frequency of the lawsuits.”

Several of the winning applicants spoke at the news conference Thursday, with some of them in tears.

Equity applicant Kimberly Scott, who received an application to open Chronic City, said the licenses are a major win for minority-owned businesses.

“I fought took and nail, every single day for this so Black folks and cannabis and the city of Detroit could benefit off this industry,” Scott said. "I wanted to see people like me where I come from be able to benefit and purchase cannabis in their own city. I am so overwhelmed and overjoyed.”

Another equity applicant, Abdullah Muhammed, who received an application to open Gage 313, said the licenses are a victory for moving forward after decades of unjust marijuana laws.

“We are here to rectify over 80 years of people being disproportionately impacted by a law that never should have existed in the first place,” Muhammed said.

The 33 licenses were issued in the first of three rounds. In all, the city's ordinance allows for the issuance of up to 160 recreational cannabis licenses.

In each of the second and third rounds, the city will approve up to 30 licenses for dispensaries, 20 for consumption lounges, and 20 for microbusinesses.

The second round can begin 120 days from the end of the first round, as long as the city council approves it.

Detroit Deputy Mayor Todd Bettison said he’s excited about the positive impact of the cannabis industry.

“The recreational marijuana industry has tremendous potential to generate wealth and income for our city, as well as personal and generational wealth for those who participate,” Bettison said.

Since the city is late to entering the industry, however, it could pose problems for prospective businesses. The market is flooded with cannabis products, growers, and dispensaries, causing prices to hit all-time lows and forcing some businesses to sell at a loss.

The winning equity applicants are:
• House of Zen
• LIV Cannabis
• Motor City Kush
• Liberty Cannabis
• High Profile Cannabis Shop
• Chronic City Cannabis
• Plan B Wellness Center
• Dacut
• Blue Wave
• The Remedy
• Cloud Cannabis
• Gage 313
• Detroit Herbal Center
• Nuggets
• Livernois Provisioning
• Inhale
• TJM Enterprises
• The Herbalist
• Ivy League
• SJTC Enterprises

The winning non-equity applicants are:
• Luxury Loud
• THC Detroit
• JARS Cannabis
• Detroit Natural Selections
• House of Dank
• SMOK
• OZ Cannabis
• MPP Services
• West Coast Meds
• Cookies
• Southwest Meds
• Leaf and Bud
• Playa Kind

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About The Author

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling is an award-winning investigative journalist who operated Motor City Muckraker, an online news site devoted to exposing abuses of power and holding public officials accountable. Neavling also hosted Muckraker Report on 910AM from September 2017 to July 2018. Before launching Motor City Muckraker,...
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