Dec 16, 2022 - News

FOIA Friday: Public records and pot

Illustration of the acronym FOIA with an eye that's looking around and blinking standing in for the O.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The city is not releasing the 90 applications it received for pot retail and lounge licenses.

  • Detroit denied our Freedom of Information Act request for the application documents that businesses submitted seeking the 60 available recreational cannabis licenses as the city rolls out its much-delayed program.

Why it matters: Seeing who applies — and who gets a license — is part of monitoring this high-profile industry. While grow licenses are unlimited, the city restricts the number of retailers and consumption venues that can open, making licenses highly sought-after.

  • The city is endeavoring to make its recreational weed industry equitable and accessible for longtime residents.

The big picture: Customers can only legally buy medical cannabis in Detroit and have to go elsewhere for recreational. This licensing process brings the adult-use industry here.

Driving the news: The city denied our request because information a cannabis business applicant sends in is exempt from FOIA, they told us on Dec. 2.

  • This is a statewide rule from the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act.

Yes, but: The city does plan to "share the full list of successful and unsuccessful applicants with their score based on their application" after it's finalized, Kim James, director of the city's marijuana office, tells Axios in a statement.

What's next: James says the city is in the "final stages" of reviewing the scoring done by an independent firm and "we hope to have more to say in the next couple weeks."

  • There are two more application phases to come, with 160 total licenses available.
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