Federal Judge: Detroit’s ‘Legacy’ Licensing Rules are ‘Likely Unconstitutional’

Detroit’s cannabis industry license ordinance giving preference to long-time city residents is “likely unconstitutional,” according to a recent federal ruling.

Full story after the jump.

A U.S. District Court judge on Thursday blocked the city of Detroit, Michigan from issuing cannabis industry licenses, ruling that the provisions in the city’s industry ordinance giving preference to long-time city residents is “likely unconstitutional,” the Detroit News reports.

U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman wrote in his opinion that the Motor City’s rules give “an unfair, irrational, and likely unconstitutional advantage to long-term Detroit residents over all other applicants.”

“At a minimum, the ordinance must pass rational basis review to be deemed constitutional under both the United States and Michigan constitutions. However, the challenged provisions of the Detroit ordinance do not appear to be rationally related to the stated purpose of rectifying the harm done to city residents by the war on drugs.”Friedman, in his ruling, via the News

The Detroit ordinance gives preferential status to “legacy” Detroiters who have lived in the city for 15 of the last 30 years; or for 13 of the last 30 years and are low-income; or for 10 of the last 30 years and have a past cannabis-related conviction.

This is the second time Friedman ruled against the city’s cannabis licensing plan. In April, he issued a temporary restraining order which prevented officials from receiving any more industry applications.

The city’s ordinance includes language that says no licenses will be issued or renewed if any part of the local law is deemed unconstitutional or otherwise struck down. The city had planned to begin issuing licenses on May 1.

The lawsuit against the rules was brought by city resident Crystal Lowe who argued that she was “almost certainly denied” a license because the city’s cannabis ordinance “favors certain Detroit residents over other Michiganders based on the duration of their residency,” according to court documents outlined by the News.

Detroit Councilman James Tate, who sponsored the cannabis ordinance, said the rules were “never to prevent anyone from participating” in the industry but to ensure that those city residents most disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs “have a fair shot of participating in a potentially lucrative opportunity for Detroit.”

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