Monday December 9, 2019
On Dec. 1, 2019, Michigan claimed a spot in cannabis history with its official launch of recreational cannabis sales, becoming the 7th state to establish an operating market. Michigan legalized cannabis for adult-use through the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act in 2018, though, like many newly-legalized areas, actual sales were delayed until regulations could be put in place.
While the majority of the state has yet to allow cannabis sales, Michigan is projected to become among the largest cannabis markets in the nation. As the Detroit Free Press reports, “the House Fiscal Agency has estimated that when the recreational market for marijuana is fully established after 2020, annual sales will approach $949 million, bringing in $94.9 million from the 10% excise tax and $57 million from the 6% sales tax.” Ready your mittens, Michigan, recreational cannabis is here.
Ann Arbor Becomes First Michigan City to Sell Cannabis
Only four locations were open and ready for recreational sales on opening day, and all of them in Ann Arbor. Though cannabis is now legal state-wide, 1,411 cities and townships have abstained from allowing sales. Long before doors opened at 9 a.m., Michiganders became the newest group to participate in what is becoming a familiar opening-day sight: gathering in long lines on a cold day to obtain limited supplies (capped at 7 grams at some dispensaries, and as low as 3.5 grams at others).
We spoke with Brandon N., who was visiting Ann Arbor from Minneapolis, and was one of the hopeful customers who ultimately gave up. He was looking to purchase at Exclusive Brands, and reported, “when we went there was an hour-plus wait so we walked away, it was just cold out.”
Days later, over at Greenstone Provisions, budtender Sareena S. corroborated reports of long lines. Waits were considerable (usually between 2-3 hours) she relayed, and the day’s supplies sell out quickly. We spoke on Thursday the 5th (coincidentally right around 4:20 p.m.), and she said they’d been out, “since noon.” It had been similar all week. They’d have more tomorrow, though, she said. Despite the challenges, she tells us, the launch has gone well.
“Most people are looking for flower,” she explained, “and can be disappointed if we’re out, but we’ve been able to help almost everyone find something they’re happy with. It’s been awesome to introduce people to new products like concentrates and edibles. It will probably die down eventually, but right now, it’s very exciting. In general, it’s been great.”
While long wait times are uncommon in more established recreational cannabis markets, even Colorado residents have been known to wait on a busy day. However, just like those states in their nascent weeks, it seems long lines and wait times where easy to find, but few long faces.
A Shaky Early Start to Recreational Cannabis Sales
Despite the small debut of open shops, the dispensaries raked in a combined $221,000 in sales. Though only half of Massachusetts’ $440,000 opening-day total, Michigan’s rollout is arriving a month earlier than originally planned. Sales had been scheduled to begin January of 2020, but was changed to Dec. 1. The earlier launch date was announced November 13th, less than a month before it took place, leaving a number of dispensaries unsure if they’d be able to meet the new deadline (many were not able to, but expect to be up and running shortly).
Further complications arose as there was initially confusion over whether or not supplies would be available on opening day. In order to meet an earlier opening, the state allowed medical dispensaries to transfer up to half of their stock to be allocated toward recreational sales. However, the advanced timing then placed the launch during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, and put into question if there would even be anyone working to complete the necessary transfers. In the end, dispensaries were able to transfer their stock in time for Sunday’s launch, but even as recent as last week, retailers were unsure.
Recreational Marijuana’s Future in Michigan
Many Michigan dispensaries that were preparing for the original January 2020 date are expected to launch early in the New Year. Though 1,411 Michigan cities and townships have banned adult-use sales, it is suspected the majority are taking a “wait-and-see” approach.
Detroit is among the cities that have opted-out of adult-use sales, but the city officials claim that’s only temporary. City council members have insisted they aim to have things shored up by the end of January. Other cities are expected to follow suit.
Though Michigan’s transition into adult-use cannabis sales was less than ideal, this promising start bodes well for the future of the state’s cannabis market. Michigan’s slightly uneven launch mirrors many others that went on to become thriving cannabis markets, and all signs point to a prosperous future. We’ll check in periodically to update readers as Michigan’s cannabis market grows. In a few short years, you’ll likely be able to get some cannabis in-hand, regardless of where you are on the mitten.
How will Michigan make its mark on the marijuana map? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.