With the recent start of adult-use marijuana sales in Michigan, the eyes of many in the cannabis community have been on the state. A successful rollout there is not only obviously important to cannabis consumers in the state, but also to activists and consumers around the country. Lawmakers in other states – like Illinois, in particular – are watching to see what goes right and wrong with the start of sales.
“From my view, the rollout of the recreational market has been a rollercoaster ride,” Josh Hovey, who served as a spokesperson on the 2018 legalization campaign, told The Marijuana Times. “On the upside, the state worked pretty quickly to develop the rules and regulations for the adult-use market and began accepting applications a month earlier than required by the passage of Proposal 1 in 2018.
“On the downside, there are a lot of issues that are preventing the licensed market from taking shape. Too many municipalities have been slow to adopt their own zoning and local licensing laws. Every community that opts to ban adult-use marijuana businesses is essentially encouraging the proliferation of the black market.”
Others are not happy with the way the state decided to structure the rollout of recreational sales. “Our members were very disappointed with the roll out of Michigan’s adult-use sales,” Robin Schneider, Executive Director of Michigan Cannabis Industry Association, told us. “The Marijuana Regulatory Agency repeatedly publicly stated that due to the product shortage in our medical program they would not allow for the transfer of medical marijuana to be used for recreational sales. Their sudden announcement that recreational facilities could transfer up to 50% of their medical inventory beginning on December 1st created a statewide inventory crisis for Provisioning Centers in medical only cities.
“The increased demand for product in Ann Arbor has caused the wholesale price on cannabis to increase to over $5000 per pound and has further depleted our scarce medical supply. Our members had been planning and projecting for the adult-use sales to begin when the recreational plants were grown and harvested, closer to spring of 2020. We do not view using the limited supply of medical marijuana that was grown under the pretense as ‘safe access’ for patients to be used to launch the recreational program early as the responsible roll-out of an adult-use program.” Robin anticipates that wholesale prices will continue to increase statewide and that stores will continue to run out of product and both adult-use consumers and patients will be forced back to the illicit market due to the fact that there are only about 100,000 plants tagged in the state’s medical marijuana tracking system with no recreational grows online as of yet.
“The state should have stuck to their original plan and built the infrastructure for a sustainable supply rather than launching recreational sales early using medical marijuana,” Robin said.
Josh agrees that more time would likely have been beneficial. “I also think the state could have been more fair in the way it is allowing the adult-use market to rollout,” he said. “Instead of licensing only a few businesses at the start of recreational sales, I would have preferred that the state waited until there were 20-30 businesses ready and then allowed all of them to open at the same time. By opening sales on Dec. 1 with only three stores open, they have given a huge advantage to a very select group of businesses.”
Problems are to be expected in the beginning of an undertaking like this, but too many problems can do real and lasting damage to the industry in the long-term, which is not good for consumers. It looks like it will be a long time before Michigan has anything approaching a decent legal cannabis industry.