Michiganders can now legally buy recreational marijuana. Here’s what you need to know. | Michigan Radio
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Michiganders can now legally buy recreational marijuana. Here’s what you need to know.

Nov 27, 2019

It's happening. Starting Sunday, December 1, 2019, Michiganders over the age of 21 will be able to purchase recreational marijuana from licensed retailers.

But you can’t just walk down to your nearest pot shop without a medical card and stock up. The licensing process is still in the very early stages, and only a handful of businesses will be open starting on Sunday.

So who can sell recreational marijuana, and who can buy it? Here’s what you need to know.

Who can sell

On December 1, only four businesses started selling recreational marijuana: Exclusive Brands, Arbors Wellness, Greenstone Provisions and Michigan Supply and Provisions. Three shops are located in Ann Arbor and one is in Morenci, Michigan.

The state Marijuana Regulatory Agency is allowing shops to move up to half of their 30-day medical marijuana inventory, which has already been tested and approved, to the retail side.

The MRA began accepting retail license applications on November 1, and issued its first license to Exclusive Brands on November 19. Five non-retail licenses have also been issued, and 69 applications for various types of marijuana licenses are pending approval. Non-retail licenses include licenses for growing and processing, testing, and events.

As of November 22, 1,411 municipalities have opted out of the licensed establishment portion of the marijuana law, meaning they have chosen to not allow retail sales in their communities. That leaves just a handful of cities that are currently allowing businesses to receive licenses, including the cities of Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids.

(Click here to see if your municipality has opted out.)

The Detroit city council voted to temporarily prohibit marijuana businesses until the details of the city’s marijuana ordinance can be finalized. The ordinance is currently set to expire January 31, 2020, but could be extended. Detroit has 39 licensed medical marijuana businesses, the most in the state.

Who can buy

Like alcohol, marijuana is legal to purchase and use for anyone over the age of 21.

There are limits to how much weed you can possess, and therefore purchase, at one time. Anyone with more than 2.5 ounces of marijuana on their person can face a fine of $100, and the punishments increase if you have two or more times that amount.

And even though anyone can now purchase marijuana, there are still rules about where you consume it. Essentially, it is still illegal to smoke pot in public spaces, such as walking down the sidewalk or in public parks. Also, like tobacco, landlords, leaseholders, and business owners are allowed to prohibit smoking within their premises.

What about medical marijuana?

There is some fear that the medical marijuana market may be negatively impacted by recreational sales. That’s why medical marijuana businesses and cardholders will see certain perks.

Existing medical dispensaries are being given priority in the recreational licensing process for the next two years. After that, all applicants will be on an equal playing field.

As for cardholders, it will be cheaper and easier for them to access marijuana.

Lisa Conine of Om Medicine in Ann Arbor explained to Stateside in October, “There will be… a [lesser] amount of tax that [people with cards] will have to pay at the register being in the medical program versus the tax structure for adult use sales. We anticipate that they’ll see shorter lines, wait times, and more attention on them.”

Medical and recreational customers will have slightly different purchasing experiences, and will be served separately, even if they are buying the same product from the same store.

What happens to the money from the tax?

On the first day that recreational marijuana businesses could start selling cannabis, they sold more than $200,000 worth of product. There are now four recreational marijuana stores open for business.

The state stands to benefit from a strong recreational marijuana economy. It gets a 10% tax on recreational marijuana. Executive Director for the Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency, Andrew Brisbo, said that money will start flowing in soon.

The first $10 million will go to repay the state general fund to implement the program. For at least two years after that, millions will go toward cannabis research. Roughly $50 million later, money will start going toward roads and schools and certain counties.

There is still work to be done by the department that reviews and issues licenses, as well as provide oversight of businesses.

“This is less reaching a finish line for us, so much as the start of our responsibilities in ensuring we’re fulfilling our mission,” said Brisbo.

That mission includes finding the balance between allowing businesses to succeed and protecting consumers.

Brisbo said a big part of how profitable recreational pot will be depends on local governments allowing the sale of marijuana.

“Because absent that, we can’t move forward with actual license applications,” Brisbo said. “So we can process a lot of those prequalification steps, but we can’t move forward with full licensure without that municipal authorization.”

*This post was updated on December 2, 2019.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said the only licensed recreational marijuana retailers so far were in Ann Abor. There are also licensed retailers in Morenci and Evert, although they were not yet selling to the public earlier in the day on Sunday. The store in Morenci started selling on Sunday evening.

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