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The Unintended Consequence of Trying to Give Black Marijuana Entrepreneurs a Head Start

By Paul Demko is the cannabis editor at POLITICO.

The lack of recreational weed shops in Michigan’s largest city is not exactly by choice. But it wasn’t by accident either. For more than two years, city officials have attempted to launch an adult-use market. But their efforts to ensure that the fledgling industry reflects the city’s demographics by giving preferential treatment to long-time residents or people living in areas disproportionately targeted by criminal enforcement have led to numerous lawsuits and endless delays. The result is a still-born market where everyone is failing.

“Detroit is doing all the wrong things for all the right reasons,” said Michael DiLaura, chief corporate officer for House of Dank, a Michigan chain which has four medical shops in Detroit and is currently suing the city over its adult-use ordinance. “We’re getting killed out there in the city. There are no patients out there anymore.”

In June 2021, a federal judge sided with Lowe. The program “gives an unfair, irrational, and likely unconstitutional advantage to long-term Detroit residents over all other applicants,” wrote U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman in his ruling. He issued a preliminary injunction blocking the city from proceeding with the application process. That left the 20 pending applications in legal limbo. City attorneys didn’t admit any wrongdoing, but Tate and his colleagues on the council went back to the drawing board.

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