Detroit adult-use cannabis ordinance ‘likely unconstitutional,’ judge says

    Susan J. Demas

    A federal judge has suspended a Detroit ordinance that gives preferences to certain residents who want to get into the marijuana business based on years of residency and other factors.

    In a 19-page opinion, Judge Bernard Friedman granted an injunction stating that the ordinance is “likely unconstitutional.”

    It comes after the city government created a policy to reserve some licenses for people who fit in certain categories. Local officials said that they wanted to help residents who have been affected by past criminalization of marijuana. People who have lived in the city for 10 to 14 of the past 30 years must meet additional conditions, including a prior crime for a controlled substance or a parent who has a prior record.

    Kim Rustem, director of the city’s Department of Civil Rights, Inclusion and Opportunity responded to Friedman’s action.

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    “We will review the decision and develop a revised plan to address the judge’s concerns,” she said in a statement. “In the meantime, one thing is for certain: The city will not issue any recreational licenses unless there is legal assurance that Detroiters will receive a fair share of those licenses.”

    In April, Friedman issued a temporary restraining order in a lawsuit that challenges a local ordinance that gives licensing preference to longtime city residents.

    In the Wayne County Circuit Court filing dated March 2, Crystal Lowe, who has lived in Detroit for 11 of the past 30 years, said she plans to apply for an adult-use retail establishment license. However, she believes that the Detroit ordinance is unfair, according to her attorney Kevin Blair. 

    The ordinance states applicants are given priority if they have lived in the city for 15 of the last 30 years; lived in Detroit for 13 of the last 30 years and are low-income; or lived in Detroit for 10 of the last 30 years and have a past marijuana-related criminal conviction. At least 50% of the licenses must be issued to legacy residents. The city also offered residents reduced application fees and up to a 75% discount on city-owned land.

    Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.