Since 57% of voters opted for recreational marijuana in Michigan last November, we’ve waited with bated breath for laws to change. Ripples at last happened in July, when it was announced that anyone over 21 could grow up to 12 marijuana plants at home. Still, sales from trusted dispensers were restricted to those with medical marijuana cards.

Now, though, there’s another change on the horizon. Thanks to the abolishment of the Medical Marijuana Licensing Board and the formation of an entirely new Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA), Michigan residents are fast on track to regulated recreational sales they can trust.

Since MRA director, Andrew Brisbo, handed out the first three recreational licenses to businesses last month, the word on the street is that widespread recreational use is set to launch on either the 1st or 2nd of December this year. That’s just in time for Christmas, but residents must understand what these changes mean if they’re to enjoy those benefits and remain on the right side of the law.

 

Will all provisioning centers start selling recreational marijuana on the 1st?

There’s no denying that buying safe, regulated recreational marijuana is about to get easier. According to Nick Warra, general manager of Exclusive Brands, “It will be just like going to buy alcohol from the liquor store or chips from Walmart.” That’s a cause Michigan residents can surely get behind, but not every provisioning center will start selling recreational marijuana straight away.

Application approval is still a requirement for recreational marijuana licenses. What’s more, companies rely on background checks and hefty fees for approval. While exact costs vary, provisioning centers can expect to pay as much as $44,000 upfront.

That said, selling recreational marijuana does look easier than opening medical marijuana facilities moving forward. The hope is that, as new, recreationally-focused micro-businesses emerge, recreational sales will soon sweep the market. Some application fee waivers have even been implemented to make sure of it.

 

Worry among the medical marijuana community

While most of the population celebrates these changes, there are some concerns regarding ongoing supply within the medical marijuana industry. Medical marijuana patients are already caught in worries about supply and demand, and recreational changes can only spell further problems. This is especially concerning given that new licensing allows companies to transfer up to 50% of their medical stock for recreational purposes.

Marijuana industry representatives, in particular, have criticized this decision. Robin Schneider, executive director of the Michigan Cannabis Industry Association, has publicly warned of the risks involved. “It’s going to be very harmful,” she said when asked, citing fears of rising costs and limited marijuana supplies for the patients who need them.

Warra and colleagues have largely discarded fears like these, claiming that dispensers with growing facilities will easily be able to cover demand. That said, there is still an undeniable question of doubt given that, in Warra’s own words, recreational demand is currently ‘up in the air.’ “We’re not sure whether we’re going to have five people day one or it’s going to be 2,000,” he announced when asked, meaning that potential influxes could definitely tip the scales against medical supplies initially.

 

Why has Michigan been crying out for recreational usage?

Despite concerns such as those mentioned, the vast majority of Michigan residents believe that recreational legalization can’t come soon enough, and they aren’t wrong. As the 10th state to legalize marijuana, we already have some pretty substantial evidence as to why this is a step in the right direction. Some predicated benefits that we should soon start seeing across the state post-December 1st include –

  • As Chicago has proven by earning three times more tax revenue from marijuana than alcohol sales, recreational marijuana looks set to bring a substantial economic boost across Michigan.
  • As is already evidenced in countless states, including Washington, recreational marijuana also seems to decrease teen drug use due to 21 age ratings on products across the market
  • Improved regulations are perhaps the most notable benefit for many. With licensing and regulation in place for recreational use post-Dec 1st, consumers will no longer have to buy from untested sources
  • Taking money away from drug culture and street crime is another bonus to these regulatory changes. According to Stephen Downing, retired deputy chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, “There’s no question that ending today’s prohibition on drugs — starting with marijuana — would do more to hurt the cartels than any level of law enforcement skill or dedication ever can.”
  • This, in turn, can lead to lower levels of crime in the drug world and out of it. Considering that alcohol is responsible for 40% of violent incidents, increased marijuana use could certainly reduce violence on our streets.
  • Lastly, recreational marijuana looks set to provide countless jobs within Michigan, especially thanks to more relaxed licensing laws than the medical industry already faces. Experts predict that the recreational sector alone could create a quarter of a million new jobs across the US by 2020 alone.

 

 

Understanding legal restrictions you still face post-Dec 1

The laws might be changing, but that doesn’t mean you can discard legality altogether when it comes to recreational marijuana use. In terms of private growing, for instance, restrictions are still set at 12 plants, and that doesn’t look set to change anytime soon.

It’s also worth noting that public smoking is still prohibited. You might be able to buy your recreational supplies in public these days, but make sure that you smoke at home to avoid legal repercussions regardless.

Note, too, that while 506 Michigan communities voted in favor of recreational use, not all did. Check legality local to you before you start getting your hopes up for a green Christmas this year.

 

Michigan marijuana moving forward

There’s no denying that December 1st spells a new period for marijuana use across Michigan. While the results of this are yet unclear, new job opportunities and economic benefits alone look set to cement this decision. And, if resident opinions are anything to go by, December can’t come soon enough.

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