Michigan Legalized Medical Marijuana. Then Detroit Closed 167 Shops.

Even though medical marijuana is legal in Michigan, the city of Detroit has shut down 167 cannabis retailers and plans to close 51 more.

Marijuana dispensaries in Detroit are subject to strict government regulation, including being 1,000 feet from schools, parks, libraries, daycare centers, churches, liquor stores and even other dispensaries, Reason reported. To get a license, a marijuana retailer must get zoning permission first.

Only five medical marijuana licenses have been issued in the Motor City, which has a population of 680,250, The Detroit Free Press reported.

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“The voters of the state made medical marijuana legal, so we have to manage that in a way that is consistent with keeping our neighborhoods respected and at the same time, allowing for those dispensaries to operate in their specific areas that we’ve identified as being lawful,” Detroit Corporation Counsel Melvin Butch Hollowell told The Free Press.

There currently are around 70 dispensaries operating with provisional approval in the city. That number must be trimmed, because the city has plans to limit the number of dispensaries.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Michigan since 2008, when voters passed a ballot initiative authorizing it. Since then, community groups in Detroit have been trying to keep cannabis out of their neighborhoods. There are an estimated 244,125 registered medical marijuana users in Michigan.

The city of Detroit, which went bankrupt in 2013, has a team of seven attorneys that work on nothing but marijuana issues, Hollowell said. One of those lawyers’ main jobs is to try and shut down dispensaries.

“We started out focusing in on the facilities that are in drug-free zones and then to the areas where there are these clusters,” Hollowell said. “We’ve been successful in the closure rate, but there’s more to do.”

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