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Medical Marijuana: Detroit’s New Dope Game

The medical marijuana business in the city of Detroit is booming. The city’s market place for pot has spiraled out of control and the criminal element is moving in to capitalize on what is seen as a get rich quick scheme similar to the drug game. Operating in a legal gray area, medical marijuana dispensaries have been selling weed with reckless abandon, even though Michigan’s Supreme Court has ruled that what is going on is illegal. But that hasn’t stopped over 150 dispensaries from doing business within the city’s limits according to a new report, Weed in the D,  published by Loveland Technologies.

“Marijuana retail is clearly a growth business,” the report says. “The numbers in this report have had to be revised upwards several times as new dispensaries opened, and more are expected to open in the near future.” The rapid proliferation of pot shops has become a big concern for law enforcement especially since Detroit has been home to some of the largest illegal marijuana rings ever busted in the United States.  The lines between legitimacy and criminality seem to blur in Detroit.

“There are a lot of people operating right at the edge of the law, more so than hardcore criminals, but that is probably changing as real gangsters realize how much money is being made.” Al Profit, a Detroit filmmaker who has documented many of the city’s notorious criminals, tells Gorilla Convict. “Detroit proper has seen its economy shrink by 40-50% in the last 10 years, so there is a desperation to make money and in an already violent city, it’s not a surprise that desperate people plus money equals violence. I expect more.”

The violence associated with the medical marijuana dispensaries in Detroit is akin to the drug game. When money is involved the stakes are always high. With some spots taking in up to $10 grand a day everyone is trying to get in on the action and stores are opening up on every corner. It’s been a weed smorgasbord.

“Theres so many of them.” Big Gov, a Detroit area rapper says.  “Every time you go up the street you see another one opening up or somebody working on one. They’re plentiful, you can always find a dispensary out here. No matter where you go, what side of town, you gonna find a whole gang of them. What I been seeing is a lot of the dispensaries been getting ran up in. People been robbing them, breaking into them, dudes been coming out and getting robbed. It’s been kind of crazy.”

Mike EZ, a 35-year-old rapper and lifelong resident who hails from the Westside of Detroit knows the violence associated with the medical marijuana trade firsthand.

“One of my closest friends just got killed.” He tells Gorilla Convict. “He was working, had his own dispensary spot. Something happened over the weed and some dude came up there tripping They got into an argument. Guns get to shooting. One nigga got shot 16 times, but didn’t die. Maybe a week and a half later, my close friend just closed down his shop. He was on his way to the crib. He stopped at the red light. They pull up on the side of him, kilt him, shoot him in the head. I know that happened related back to the shooting that happened at the dispensary.”

And with no regulations, until recently, its been very east to set up a dispensary.

“Detroit is full of empty storefronts,” Al Profit says. “All you need to have a dispensary is to grab a $500 a month spot, put in a solid steel door, floor to ceiling bulletproof glass, which every single business in inner-city Detroit has and a video security system and you’re open for business. While selling weed is technically illegal, they call the payment donations. There are places selling $5-$10k a day in grams and eighths.”

And if you don’t have a legitimate reason to get a medical marijuana card in Detroit its not a problem. Plenty of dispensaries operate like drug spots and sell to anyone. They even have drive-through windows like fast food places.

“Certain places you can go and you don’t need no weed card. They’ll sell you whatever you want.” Mike EZ tells Gorilla Convict. “They got drive throughs, its like going to Wendy’s or McDonalds. You pull up and say let me get that Strawberry Kush. You can get whatever, an ounce, half ounce. If it’s your birthday they’ll give you a free joint. You get free weed when it.s your birthday.”

But even if you want to get a weed card, its not really that difficult.

“They got the hook up on that shit where they fill the paper work out, take it to someone and boo-ya, you got you a card. Or you can go to the doctor and be like my back hurt, I got knee problems. And weed does heal the pain, those pills they give, you don’t even need, just smoke some weed and you’ll be straight.” Mike-EZ says.

Law enforcement has been ignoring the problem, but Mayor Mike Duggan has been clamoring for regulations. And while any dispensaries opened up in the suburb areas like Canton,  Dearborn and Ferndale where its 99% white are quickly shut down , the ones in the city where its 88% black have been able to continue to operate.

“The iconic 8 mile road of Eminem fame, which is the northern border of the city has dozens and dozens of dispensaries on the Detroit side and none on the suburban side, servicing a primarily suburban clientele. ” Al Profit tells Gorilla Convict. “Policing is very lax in Detroit, so I think some of the dispensaries aren’t really even licensed, they’re really just spots. The police occasionally raid them and give loitering tickets.”

The Weed in the D report says that “all the dispensaries are in the city, but most of the clients are form the suburbs. There’s over a 100 within 1.15 miles from the suburbs. Located near Gross Pointe Park, Eastpointe, Warren, Southfield and Dearborn and are also located near schools.” Is it just another case of keeping the undesirable down in the hood?

To combat the Wild, Wild West atmosphere that has permeated the inner-city medical marijuana trade the Detroit city council just recently passed regulations giving the city the ability to license the dispensaries. The weed stores will now have to get a license from the city or be shut down. No more freelancing in Motown.

The effort was spearheaded by councilman James Tate who has been talking about the unregulated dispensaries in the news a lot the last couple of months as the issue  has become a hot topic in the media. Calls to Mr. Tate’s office for comments for this article went unreturned and there’s been criticism that his regulations, in essence, are an attempt to shut down the dispensaries.

“The Detroit ordinances, as currently written, are harmful for the industry and patients.” Johnny Green from The Weed Blog tells Gorilla Convict. “When I first heard that Detroit was looking into drafting rules for the industry, I was happy, because clear and fair regulations are definitely needed. However, long time activists in Detroit are very upset with the language in the rules, and rightfully so. This should be an opportunity to help Detroit’s booming medical marijuana industry, and with it, the patients that rely on them. Instead, this is basically being used as an opportunity to shut many safe access points down from what I understand.”

Despite the explosive market for medical marijuana in Detroit the future is unclear. With the violence associated with the scene, the city council seemingly intent on shutting the dispensaries down and law enforcements refusal to let pot shops operate in the suburbs it seems the significant growth that hasten unabated will be slowly halted. But that being said the medical marijuana in Detroit isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. But will it continue to operate how it has been, with police turning a blind eye, or will the new regulations bring increased raids and shutdowns in the city?

“The future of medical marijuana in Detroit will always be clouded in the absence of clear and fair rules and laws at the state level.” Johnny Green says. “Even if Detroit passed ordinances that were fair and clear right now, there would still likely be interference at the county and state level. With that being said, one thing is for sure – the medical marijuana industry isn’t going anywhere in Detroit, and it would greatly benefit Detroit and Michigan if dispensaries were embraced instead of shunned, and their tax revenue generating potential harnessed for the greater good of Michigan, which been dealing with hard economic times for many years now.”

If you like this article then check out the article on Big Gov.