Monday, 26 August 2019 12:00

Potshots: September 2019

Written by  Andy Balaskovitz
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Hundreds of skittish communities across Michigan have formally opted out of allowing recreational marijuana businesses in their jurisdiction. Some may never allow them, while others are taking a cautious wait-and-see approach as the state finalizes regulations. Either way, the state’s recreational marijuana law allows residents in these communities to petition the government and overrule officials by vote. 

The first three of these voter initiatives took place in early August, but with disappointing results for cannabis advocates. Voters in Vanderbilt (Otsego County), Highland Park (Wayne County) and Crystal Lake Township (Benzie County) rejected attempts to allow businesses. Luckily, these voters are near cities that are interested in allowing businesses.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Dana Nessel has formed a work group of law enforcement and state officials in hopes of clarifying ambiguous aspects of the recreational law. Though Nessel supported Proposal 1, she has said the law is unclear about penalties for certain infractions. For example, smoking cannabis in public or where plants can be grown. The group may draft some state legislation to resolve the questions, but even Nessel admits it could be tough getting the three-fourths of the Legislature to agree on changes, as is required by state law.

Some communities, meanwhile, are still hung up on questions over medical marijuana. In mid-August, the city of Grand Rapids heard from divided residents and business owners about how to treat future medical marijuana businesses. (The city continues to slog through its approval process, though 11 facilities have been permitted.) Specifically, the city asked for opinions on whether dispensaries should operate near parks. Six proposed facilities are reportedly within 1,000 feet of a city park. Their approval depends on waivers granted by the city Planning Commission. Aside from predictable NIMBYism concerns (MLive reports that the owner of a nearby company fears his truck drivers would be tempted by a dispensary), supporters say it’s hypocritical to allow pharmacies to dispense prescription drugs near parks but not medical marijuana dispensaries. The West Michigan Cannabis Guild also notes that the state and city “require extensive security” at these facilities. The group understands case-by-case considerations, but its main focus is to “ensure unfettered access to medical marijuana for West Michigan residents.

In a recent report, the state Marijuana Regulatory Agency says nearly $70 million in medical marijuana sales took place between April 1 and June 30. That’s more than 11,700 pounds at an average price of $185 an ounce, if you’re counting. The state has approved 296 licenses as of Aug. 16, mostly for provisioning centers (127) and large-scale growers (96).

However, a recent report published by Pew Charitable Trusts says market uncertainty is causing lower-than-expected revenue forecasts in legalized states, and the same is true for Michigan’s medical market. It’s likely due to ongoing black-market sales, whose impact on the recreational market remains unknown.

Last note: Since football season is upon us, we want to congratulate former Detroit Lion and Pro Bowl wide receiver Calvin Johnson on his appointment to the Michigan Cannabis Industry Association’s board of directors. Johnson and former teammate Rob Sims, Jr. plan to open several medical marijuana facilities across the state. Johnson said he wants to help Michigan create an “inclusive business environment” and make it a “national leader” in the marijuana industry. Certainly that would be an upgrade from our consistently disappointing Lions.

Visit our sister publication for a comprehensive look at marijuana across industries.


— Compiled by Andy Balaskovitz

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