Opinion: Opportunities ahead for Michigan's marijuana industry
Michigan will officially begin accepting applications for adult use marijuana licensing today. As the executive director of the Michigan Cannabis Industry Association, I am talking with our members, and they are beginning to submit their applications to be the first licensed retail storefronts with the expectations of opening their doors in early 2020.
There is plenty of enthusiasm from MiCIA membership as they seek to wade into the adult-use market, tempered with caution and a little trepidation. With the elimination of the licensing board for medical marijuana, the medical regulatory structure has been streamlined and improved, but there is still a significant demand for medical marijuana that is not being met. There will be some catch up to meet the demand for the adult-use market.
The Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency has up to 90 days to review applications. Once the license is awarded, the process starts from seed to product. Medical marijuana businesses transitioning into the recreational marijuana space have to cultivate and track a whole new batch of product meant specifically for adult-use sales and distribution to make sure it is regulated, tracked and taxed appropriately.
Testing requirements are stringent. If a batch does not meet requirements, the whole crop and supply will be destroyed, and the process restarted. The MiCIA has been encouraging the department to listen to industry experts to determine which tests most effectively protect public health and allow Michigan small businesses to thrive.
While there are challenges, there is much to be excited about for the state and our communities. MiCIA’s more than 200 members represent businesses in medical and adult use-cannabis but also support services like accounting, insurance, law, banking and business consulting. The economic impact of legal cannabis in Michigan continues to grow, and I expect this will dramatically increase after the first adult-use licensed businesses open. Early estimates by the state House Fiscal Agency estimate the industry could generate $950 million annually, resulting in more than $150 million in tax revenue.
In addition to economic impact, a bill package focusing on expungement recently passed the House Judiciary Committee. These bills, several of which focus on marijuana convictions, expand the state’s criminal expungement system, some allowing for automatic expungement of certain convictions. Expungement could be a game changer for whole communities, helping broaden the labor pool, open up opportunities for housing, financing and even education.
When the ballot language was created, there was emphasis placed on ensuring provisions for a social equity program as many communities were disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition. The state has been working aggressively to schedule social equity workshops throughout the state, and our members have been actively participating and mentoring interested individuals.
While there are some challenges ahead for this burgeoning market, there are many more opportunities. The fine-tuning we have gone through in the medical cannabis market has made for a more informed approach to the adult-use market, and we’ve seen that reflected on the regulatory side. We’re hopeful for all of the positive developments in criminal justice reform, social equity programs, and in the potential for fulfilling the wishes of Michigan voters with a successful rollout of the adult-use industry and the ensuing economic boon for the state.
We’re excited to roll up our sleeves and build this industry together.
Robin Schneider is the executive director for the Michigan Cannabis Industry Association, the state’s largest cannabis industry trade organization and was the finance director of the campaign for Proposal 1, which legalized adult-use marijuana in Michigan.