Unfortunately, Cloud 9 Relief, Starbuds, Puff Detroit, and many of the other medical cannabis dispensaries Dave Jordano photographed throughout the city are no longer open. But for a short time in 2016, they were everywhere. At one point, estimates place the number of dispensaries in Detroit at around 250 to 300.
As Jordano explains, the industry at the time was relatively accessible to designated caregivers—and applications were open for medical supply licenses at just $25. The photographer saw the tell-tale green LEDs signaling the appearance of new locations throughout the city, taking over old abandoned storefronts or fast food chains.
Owned mostly by lower-income entrepreneurs, each storefront had a personality all its own. A bit of research on Google Reviews reveals that Cloud 9 Relief, for instance, had a small parking lot but a friendly, knowledgeable staff and a medicated strawberry shortcake. Puff Detroit had great prices, quality strains, and informative budtenders, and the security at Starbuds would walk customers to their cars if they were alone as a courtesy.
Jordano started documenting cannabis dispensaries in Detroit knowing that they might not be around forever: soon after he noticed them himself, the Detroit city council introduced ordinances that made opening dispensaries far more difficult. New rules meant that cannabis dispensaries couldn’t be within 1,000 feet of churches, schools, city parks, or liquor stores. To Jordano, it seemed like an obvious attempt to stop a growing industry in its tracks.
Following the passing of these ordinances, some of the Detroit cannabis dispensaries were raided and shut down. After investing everything into growing their businesses, many owners had no choice but to close up shop amid the mounting pressure from the city. Jordano devoted three months to photographing as many as he could before they disappeared.
Today, six years since Jordano made these photographs, Detroit allows recreational cannabis dispensaries, but the artist says that most are mostly owned by wealthy, established entrepreneurs. The independent, grassroots shops like the ones he saw in 2016 are few and far between. But a lucky few of them still exist—so the next time you’re in Detroit, keep an eye out for that green glow at night.