In March of 2016, a new ordinance took effect in Detroit, making it much harder for medical cannabis dispensaries to operate within the city. Since then, the number of dispensaries operating in Detroit has gone from 283 to less than 100. On November 7th of this year, voters in the city approved two measures that will relax some of the restrictions that the ordinance put in place, and it seems the Detroit City Council is not happy about that.
By a vote of 7 to 1, the council passed a resolution calling on the city’s administration to challenge the voter-approved (both with about 60% of the vote) measures in court. The resolution itself was initiated by the city’s planning commission and states that they have “requested that the mayor and corporation counsel support and initiate an appropriate challenge of the proposals to preserve the integrity of the city’s zoning ordinance and carefully configured zoning scheme.”
While this seems that this is an attempt to thwart the will of the voters, voters who disagreed with decisions made last year by the council, Councilman James Tate claims that is not the case. “The question is…is the question that was asked improper?” he said. “We want to take out the bad stuff within the ballot language and go to court. That does not hurt anyone’s vote. That all remains the same. Both of them have zoning implications to our current zoning ordinance. That is the issue. … I support it.”
If you had trouble following that train of thought, you’re probably not alone, because it makes no sense. How changing and possibly throwing out the measures voters approved doesn’t hurt anyone’s vote is a mystery.
When you read further about what others who approved of the resolution had to say about its passage, you get the sense that the city’s zoning laws should be a top priority, something that the rights of voters have to be “balanced” against. But rights aren’t something that needs to be balanced against decisions made by the government, that’s why they are rights; they exist no matter what the government says.
To be fair, many on the Detroit City Council seem very concerned that dispensaries being open an hour later and being within 500 feet of each other are some things that are going to decimate their ruling prerogative and rip apart the carefully crafted artwork that is Detroit’s zoning regulations. After all, that is what Detroit is known for, right?
If I’m a council member I’m not going to like any power being taken from me, and that’s a natural reaction. But the people of Detroit, the ones who vote on who sits on the city’s council, seem to think that people should have more access to medical marijuana. Hopefully the city’s administration ends up agreeing and doesn’t take the issue any further.