Deadline Alert:Michigan Marijuana Facility Applications Due… Download an Application Now

Legal Marijuana in the Midwest: Michigan Launches Recreational Sales

by Sarah Cawthon December 12, 2019

Over the last week and a half, Michigan became the first Midwestern state to allow recreational marijuana sales.

The state allowed stores to begin selling marijuana to recreational users on December 1, 2019, just 13 months after voters backed marijuana legalization in 2018. According to state law, anyone 21 or older can purchase and possess marijuana. 

As of December 10th, there are five active adult-use retailers open in the state with most of the sales located in Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan. More retailers are expected to crop up around the state as the program stabilizes and further develops.michigan blog

Nearly 80% of local municipalities in the state have opted out of allowing recreational sales within their border. However, several cities like Detroit are taking a wait-and-see approach and, depending on how legalization goes, more jurisdictions could eventually opt in or out.

"Many want to see either what the permanent regulations look like and others want to see what it looks like in other communities of a similar size and scale to see how it all unfolds," said the director of the Marijuana Regulatory Agency, Andrew Bisbo. "And then many more that just need a little more time to work through how they wanted their ordinances to work." 

Michigan officials issued 18 licenses, including growers and processors, for the first day of sales. Regulators, who began accepting license applications since November 1, 2019, are also aiding the transition by letting medical growers, processors and dispensaries transfer up to half their products to the recreational side until more recreational businesses are operational in January. However, marijuana is unlikely to be more broadly available until more businesses become licensed and additional communities authorize sales.

In the first eight days since the retail market became legal, Michigan has seen an overwhelming reaction with their few recreational marijuana stores selling more than $1.6 million worth of cannabis products. 

Greenstone sold out of marijuana flower several days in a row. Michigan Supply and Provision had an especially limited supply of only cannabis flower. Lit sold out of products after seeing 750 customers, of whom spent an average of about $100 per sale, during the first two days of sales.

“I was very transparent from the beginning, that undoubtedly, in the initial stages demand was going to exceed supply,” said Bisbo who expects both marijuana supplies and demand to continue to grow as several million Michiganders could show interest in recreational products.

The state 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. The first $20 million from the 10% excise tax produced during the first two years of recreational marijuana sales will go to research on the medical benefits of marijuana.

People traveled, braved the cold and stood in line for hours just to be among the first to purchase legal recreational marijuana in the Midwestern state.

John Sinclair, a poet and advocate, made the first recreational marijuana purchase at Arbors Wellness in Ann Arbor on December 1. Sinclair gained international recognition in 1969 when he was sentenced to 10 years in jail for giving two marijuana joints to an undercover police officer, which led to protests and rallies for his release because many believed the sentence was too harsh. Even John Lennon of the Beatles advocated for his release by writing and performing a song about the poet simply titled, John Sinclair.

"That was always the goal on my part, that it would be normalized,” said Sinclair, 78, of Detroit. “You want a joint? Go to the store and buy one." He bought two pre-rolled joints.

Although Michigan is the first state in the Midwest to legalize the use or recreational marijuana, it certainly will not be the last. Illinois has already followed suit and legalized adult-use marijuana earlier this year. The Land of Lincoln is expected to allow recreational sales beginning January 1, 2020.

Want to Open a Recreational Marijuana Business in Michigan?

If you’re interest in opening a recreational marijuana business in Michigan, you will first have to select a local municipality that has opted in to allow the type of marijuana business you are interested in establishing.MIappguide_large

For complete information and details on how to apply for a marijuana business license in Michigan, download our Michigan Application Guide & Checklist. The guide provides step-by-step instructions on over 100 action items to complete prior to submitting your application for a marijuana business license. You’ll be able to learn about business application topics from real estate and financial planning to staffing and team building activities. 

Download Application Guide