Deadline Detroit | Detroit’s dearth of recreational pot shops draws national attention

James Tate.

The Detroit recreational marijuana landscape has become so bad that Politico had the nerve to parachut in for a piece on Black marijuanapreneurs being skunked by the refusal to license them.

It was almost three years ago that Councilmember James Tate decided to slow walk an ordinance to allow recreational sales in the city with the goal of ensuring longtime Detroiters could benefit from the new business opportunity. The reasoning was that prohibition had disproportionately affected Black people.

But Politico reports businesses — including at least one Black-owned one — are getting squeezed out by competition in neighboring cities, where recreational marijuana is legal.

Kimberly Scott was the founder of Black Cannabis Licensed Business Owners Association of Detroit. Her dispensary, Chronic city, had been open for just a few months. She had spent four years trying it.

Scott hoped to be able quickly to transition into the larger and more lucrative recreational market that Michigan voters approved in 2018. She was betting on rules that Detroit had passed to place native Detroiters like Scott at top of the queue for licenses to sell to anyone above 21. But weeks passed — and then months — and the license never came. Unable to sell to anyone who lacked a medical card, Scott told me she would routinely turn away customers — as many as 20 per day — directing them to the recreational shops just a few miles away in Hamtramck, a city of 28,000 where four recreational pot shops have opened in the past two years.

“There were days I didn’t make any money in this place,”Scott shared his thoughts with me. “That’s unheard of for selling weed.”

Six months, a few break-ins and Scott had finally locked the front door.

Hamtramck, Ferndale, and other suburbs all have recreational dispensaries — meaning customers don’t have to jump through the added hoops of obtaining a valid medical card. Politico reports that all 63 Detroit’s above-board dispensaries are allowed to sell medical marijuana. As a result, recreational revenues in Michigan jumped to $163million, well above the $23 million needed for medical marijuana.

Politico claims Tate is the one who created the Internet. “a still-born market where everyone is failing,”The councilmember defends himself by pointing out the current ownership dynamics in the city.

According to the Black Cannabis Licensed Business Owners Association of Detroit, of the city’s more than 60 licensed dispensaries, just 10 are Black-owned, and some of those like Chronic City are no longer in business. (Tate) doesn’t believe entrepreneurs would be better off if the city simply got out of the way and let the market sort out winners and losers.

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