The city was in litigation over a previous ordinance’s rigorous equity program and it felt like a “standstill.”
“In the meantime, I could see that not just Black businesses, but all businesses were suffering from what was happening,” said Scott, who started as a caregiver in 2014. She founded Chronic City in 2015.
There were five member businesses to start, and Scott sought others. Now they’re at 10, including Chronic City, West Coast Meds on Lyndon Street near Livernois Avenue and Remedy on Eight Mile Road at Evergreen. They’ve been meeting monthly on Zoom.
Other Black-owned Detroit businesses include Harrington and former NFL player Ron Bartell’s Kahn Cannabis Co. at the Russell Industrial Center.
Some members of the association declined to be named.
Scott and the others have had a lot to talk about: Many medical customers have been absent, opting for recreational shops. Yet others have continued to visit medical dispensaries, becoming confused and sometimes angry because they don’t realize Detroit is still medical-only.
“Now it’s to the point where we decline more than actually come through the door,” Mark Snipes of West Coast Meds said.
People want to shop in their communities, Scott said, but it’s difficult when they have to go through a lengthier process.
Scott said the city is working “diligently” to create a program that allows opportunity for people underrepresented in the cannabis industry. She said she believes officials like Detroit City Council President Pro Tem James Tate, who has been championing the recreational cannabis ordinance, see what the industry can do for Detroit.
The support Snipes has found in the association has been a “bright spot” in a tough time, he said. “It puts us together where we can do some good for each other by working together,” he said, like collaborating on advertising and advocacy.
And as Scott points out, forming the association was not just about the city cannabis ordinance.
“It was important to me to create this group … I wanted to create Black ownership, I wanted to show others that we do exist, that Blacks can have ownership in business and especially within the cannabis industry,” said Scott, who also helped shape Michigan’s social equity program.
People are profiting off a plant whose prohibition disproportionately hurt Black and Brown communities in Detroit and elsewhere, she said. Fair opportunity is fundamental, she added.
“There’s an injustice on Black people in cannabis right now,” Scott said. “This is the industry we have created and we are not benefiting off of. And no one helped us to get into this industry. There was no assistance … We are pioneers.”
She plans for the association to grow into a “pillar” for others navigating the cannabis industry, directing them to a collective of resources and education.
Harrington of Viola Brands said he’s been offering advice and insight to the association, having worked on pot equity in other states.
“… My biggest advice is telling them every day, every month, every year we’re out of (the recreational) business is going to make it that much tougher for us to compete,” Harrington said.
After litigation, delays and amendments, a second version of proposed recreational rules from Tate could potentially be approved April 5. The ordinance allocates an equal number of licenses to “social equity” applicants and, separately, the general pool of applicants — 50 each for the limited, highly sought-after retail licenses, for example.
Though City Council members appear largely in favor of recreational, they have differed on specifics. There’s been debate as to whether the new version of the ordinance will help Detroiters benefit enough from the cannabis industry, and how more cannabis will affect neighborhoods.
While there’s been a lot of public support for recreational weed sales in Detroit, some fears were brought up during public comment about proliferation of consumption lounges and consumption events, and not enough time given for residents to understand how the ordinance affects them.