Michigan’s adult-use marijuana sales were anticipated to kick off in the spring of 2020, but that timeline has been fast-tracked. The state’s recreational cannabis program is ready to roll December 1 with close to twelve stores available for consumers.
Despite the schedule adjustment, the dawn of legal, recreational cannabis in Michigan will be limited at the start, and it’s not clear how long the state’s recreational market will take to reach its peak optimization. Some municipalities are banning recreational weed, and according to Marijuana Business Daily, as of November 8, 78.5% of the state’s total number of cities, villages, and townships had opted out of participating in the recreational market. In essence, eight out of 10 municipalities (including Detroit) have said a collective, “No thanks,” to legal marijuana, at least in the initial stages of legalization.
Cannabis advocates and attorneys are optimistic that within the next five years or so, at least half the townships, villages, and cities in Michigan will permit legal recreational cannabis commerce. Others believe the state is taking a cautious approach, taking their time to find the right balance of facilities and permits to allocate. Barton Morris, a principal attorney of Michigan’s Cannabis Legal Group, said in an interview, that Michigan, once the industry is mature, will have a robust market.
Data provided by Marijuana Business Daily agrees with Morris’s assertions and projects that the Michigan market will ultimately reach $1.4 billion to $1.7 billion in annual sales. Michigan’s debut in the legal adult-use recreational market is in high demand, and that has, in turn, fueled the black market. Not only that, but on the medical marijuana side of the industry, the flower is in short supply, and those registered as medical marijuana patients has dropped by 21, 262 — from a high of 297,515 in late 2018, down to 276,253 as of November 1, 2019.
Why the new schedule?
The timeline decision by state regulators also serves as a way to counteract the burgeoning illicit market. Concerns over medical marijuana flower shortages also influenced the resolution, and the Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) is working responsively, quickly issuing licenses for new recreational companies. The MRA began taking recreational applications on November 1. As of November 13, the MRA has issued 46 application pre-approvals. Because existing medical marijuana licensees have already completed a strict vetting process, they are expected to get the first recreational use licenses.
While adult recreational cannabis sales were supposed to start in the spring of 2020, state regulators expedited that, allowing medical marijuana operators to transfer up to half of their inventory — but only products that have been in stock for at least 30 days — into equivalent recreational marijuana facilities. That means that retailers are clamoring to get ready for the December 1 start date, and medical marijuana dispensaries are hurrying to stock up on enough cannabis products to meet anticipated inventory needs once they receive their retail licenses.
Michigan’s medical marijuana program was known for licensing delays and bureaucratic red-tape, but things have become increasingly streamlined once the MRA took control in the spring of 2019. State officials believe their supply formula and projections will maintain adequate cannabis flower supplies for both adult-use recreational consumers and medical patients.