Detroit city leaders are under pressure to usher in a new era of legal cannabis sales after the police chief linked marijuana deals to multiple homicides.

There have been 17 murders already in 2020 and Chief James Craig said marijuana dealing is a common theme in the killings. Craig added that the illicit market is thriving in the city and said his officers are focused on arresting people who illegally carry guns while buying or selling marijuana.

Michigan legalized recreational cannabis in 2018 after the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana passed with 56% of the vote. Sales commenced last month, but communities were permitted to opt out of allowing cannabis businesses to open within their jurisdictions.

Around 1,400 of the 1,771 communities in the state exercised that right. Yesterday, Detroit City Council members unanimously agreed to delay recreational marijuana sales in the city.

The opt-out was due to expire, but Tuesday’s decision extended that until March. “This will allow us the opportunity to hash out all the details of our social equity program that is within the framework of the draft ordinance that we have right now,” said Councilman James Tate.

Some communities are outright opposed to adult-use cannabis dispensaries launching there, but many have just decided to delay the process. They have been waiting to see the final framework laid out by the Marijuana Regulatory Agency and keeping a close eye on developments in the communities that have allowed sales.

Detroit City Council members appear keen on recreational marijuana dispensaries opening there, but they want to fine-tune the framework governing the local industry. The say Detroit’s medical cannabis dispensaries are controlled by companies outside the city, and they want locals to benefit from the new adult-use sector.

Tate said the delay would allow the council to create a pathway to sustainability and success for Detroiters, but pressure is likely to mount on the council to speed things up if residents are dying while trying to buy weed.

One issue will be price, as Craig believes the street price will be lower than the cost of securing legal marijuana, which is subject to tax, so the challenge for the city will be to communicate the health and safety benefits of visiting licensed cannabis stores.