One of the crown jewels in what turned out to be a pretty successful Election Night 2018 for the cannabis law reform community was the approval of adult-use legalization in Michigan. A populous state and the first Midwestern state to legalize cannabis for more than medical use, Michigan is seen by many in surrounding states as a beacon and something to aspire to.
And while things are still early in the game when it comes to setting up a recreational sales industry, it seems like the state is doing many of the things that need to be done to move the process along.
“So far the state has earned a B+ grade on rolling out the adult-use programs – but it’s very early in the game,” Rick Thompson, board member of NORML of Michigan and board member of MILegalize 2018 and 2016, told The Marijuana Times. “Draft rules are expected in June, then emergency rules, then permanent administrative rules in late 2019 or early 2020.
“What earns them high marks so far has been their willingness to take input. Through three days in Lansing, the Bureau of Marijuana Regulation took input from 45 industry specialists, then spent two days in Detroit hearing from 80 interested parties and finished up in the far northern Upper Peninsula with a one day seminar featuring two dozen participants.”
Matthew Able, Executive Director of Michigan NORML, grants slightly higher marks, giving the “Whitmer administration an A- on this issue so far. They are collecting information from work groups and expect to have draft rules by June” while also granting industrial hemp licenses.
A major component of recreational sales will be a robust medical marijuana industry in the state. And currently, that industry is struggling. “Legal sales will begin in previously-licensed medical cannabis retail locations, so building the medical cannabis infrastructure in Michigan is essential or a major catastrophe will occur,” Rick Thompson told us. “The medical business infrastructure is being built at a slow pace and for 300,000 patients. There are 7 million adults in Michigan and this is a popular tourist state. If the medical side is underdeveloped when retail sales of adult-use cannabis come online, industry-crippling product shortages will happen.”
Rick describes a battle in the state over partially-licensed dispensaries “with corporate interests calling for them to be closed and patient interests calling for them to remain open.” This is an issue we have covered a few times here at The Marijuana Times.
“Michigan is on fire right now, and all the heat is on the cannabis supply industry,” Rick said.
While what happens in Michigan obviously means more to those who live in the state than anyone else, what goes on will have a major impact on legalization in states like Ohio and Illinois as well. Lawmakers in those states are watching very closely how legalization shakes out in another populous, industrial, Midwestern state.
Failures will be seized on by those who oppose legalization, especially as those people become more desperate as time goes on. On the flip side, successes tend to feed on themselves, birthing further success for those who are willing to continue to put in the work. Michigan has a long way to go to get to a functioning adult-use industry, but at least it seems they are on their way – something that can’t be said about most states.