Young Citizen's Concerns Prompt Discussion on Cannabis Advertising in Detroit

May 9th, 2024 Legislation & Policy Updates
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A young resident's plea at a Detroit City Council meeting has prompted discussions about the pervasive advertising of cannabis in the city, highlighting concerns over its influence on children. Nine-year-old Kaydn Mahouli voiced his apprehensions about cannabis advertisements that he frequently encounters when visiting his grandmother in Detroit. He expressed fears that such promotions could entice his peers into experimenting with cannabis.

Kaydn, who resides in Beverly Hills but visits Detroit often, mentioned specific companies like House of Dank and Mark Savaya's Leaf and Bud whose advertisements he sees regularly. His concerns have caught the attention of Council Member Angela Whitfield-Calloway, who subsequently requested a report from the Legislative Policy Division (LPD) on possible measures to restrict cannabis-related advertising, particularly billboards.

Supporting the call for regulatory changes, Detroit Superintendent Nikolai Vitti shared alarming observations of increased cannabis use among students during school hours. In a letter addressed to Governor Gretchen Whitmer and City Council members, Vitti described frequent incidents of students being hospitalized due to the intentional or accidental consumption of cannabis, particularly edibles. The superintendent's letter also highlighted the issue of edibles being packaged in wrappers similar to popular candy brands, potentially misleading children.

Vitti reported a significant rise in drug-related incidents within the district, with 745 infractions recorded this year alone. Amid these concerns, Whitfield-Calloway pointed out that one particular company's billboards were overly dominant in the city's landscape, although she did not specify the company.

Addressing the council, LPD Director David Whitaker acknowledged the complexity of curbing commercial speech, given the legal nuances involved. However, he noted that the city allocates 2% of state cannabis tax revenue to youth substance abuse programs.

Further discussions led by Councilman Scott Benson advocated for a more robust approach to prevention. He proposed that 10% of the city's cannabis revenue should be directed toward substance abuse prevention programs. Benson emphasized the importance of addressing the adverse impacts of cannabis on youth, acknowledging the powerful role of community voices in this dialogue.

The Detroit Health Department is set to launch a new initiative this summer, funded by $40,000 from cannabis revenues, aimed at enhancing substance abuse prevention efforts. However, Benson and other council members believe more substantial funding is necessary to effectively tackle the issue.

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