Over the past five years, the city had 283 medical marijuana facilities. Many were within smelling distance of the city’s 4,000 church properties and along busy streets. The pot shops were so common that, in some churches, parishioners could look out beyond their statues of the Virgin Mary to see dispensaries decorated with green lights and names like “Mary Jane’s.”
Since the city’s crackdown and zoning changes, only eight medical marijuana businesses have been approved to operate. Eighty-one applications are in the approval process, and another 69 shops are operating while waiting approval from the city.
One of the reasons there are so few dispensaries now is because there are so many churches. A Bridge Magazine analysis of city zoning and assessing records shows there are limited areas of the city where shops could open because of the 1,000-foot prohibition near churches.
Hollowell said there are about 40 remaining legal sites in the city for marijuana businesses. That number would grow significantly if voters pass the referendum that lowers the limit to within 500 feet of a church.
Charles Williams III, pastor at the Historic King Solomon Missionary Baptist Church, said churches can be an important part of the discussion about marijuana dispensaries.
“Churches should have the ability to hold dispensaries accountable. They don’t want the lime green buildings with 1,000 signs saying, ‘Weed! Come and get it!,'” he said. “We’ve got way too many churches, way too many liquor and lotto stores in Detroit, the last thing we need is way too many dispensaries. Too much of anything is not good.”
Detroit officials also need to ensure there are opportunities for minorities to own medical marijuana facilities, said Williams, who is also president of the Detroit chapter of National Action Network, a civil rights group.
“I do believe there