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Detroit's ban on recreational marijuana sales may be too late to stop some dispensaries from opening

Detroit Metro Times By Steve Neavling

Some recreational cannabis businesses may open in Detroit despite a ban because city leaders took too long to take action. Detroit City Council imposed the ban five days after the state’s Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) began taking applications for recreational pot businesses, including dispensaries, growers, and processors.

But according to the state law that legalized recreational marijuana, the MRA “shall approve a state license application” if the proposed business applies before a community imposes a ban and meets all of the qualifications. MRA spokesman David Harns confirmed to Metro Times that businesses that applied before the ban was imposed on Nov. 5 are eligible for a license. “If we receive an application and there was no prohibitive ordinance in place, that application wold be granted if all of the criteria is met,” Harns says. Council members said the ban is temporary and intended to give the city more time to establish regulations for recreational marijuana businesses. It’s unclear why the council waited a year before discussing regulations. Detroit is among 79% of Michigan communities that imposed a ban on recreational marijuana businesses, despite the promise of new tax dollars and economic development. Many have adopted a wait-and-see approach and could revisit the issue later. Beginning Dec. 1, recreational marijuana businesses will begin opening up and selling cannabis products to anyone 21 years of age or older. In the first full fiscal year, marijuana sales are projected to generate $180.5 million in taxes, according to the Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency. That number is expected to grow to $287.9 million by 2022-23. Detroit’s decision to wait until after the application process began is good news for businesses that applied before Nov. 5. But for the proposed businesses that did not, they'll have to wait until council adopts new regulations and lifts the ban. That will create a competitive advantage for businesses that applied before the ban. It's unclear which businesses or how many of them applied before the ban went into effect. The state is withholding that information until applications are approved. Stay on top of Detroit news and views. Sign up for our weekly issue newsletter delivered each Wednesday.

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