Officials are ready to start the recreational marijuana market in Michigan, as they’ll be issuing a set of rules for business operations by the end of June.
For local governments, that means it’s crunch time.
Municipalities have to decide whether or not they want to allow recreational marijuana businesses in their communities by October, when state officials said they plan to start accepting license applications.
As of June 2019, the list of bans is lengthy. Nearly 600 Michigan communities have banned adult-use marijuana businesses in the seven months since 57 percent of Michigan voters said yes to Proposal 1.
About 4.7 million Michigan residents live in a community with a ban, according to an MLive analysis. Municipalities are only able to ban businesses from opening within their bounds — they are not legally able to prohibit marijuana consumption or possession.
Map: Communities that have banned recreational marijuana businesses
In order for shops to start selling marijuana to adults age 21 and over, they have to have a state license. That’s why no legal sales of recreational weed have occurred yet in Michigan, even though voters legalized the practice seven months ago.
For at least the first year of adult-use marijuana sales, most of the business licenses are required by law to go to existing medical marijuana companies.
But unlike medical marijuana — where a company needs both state and local approval to operate — adult-use cannabis businesses only need a state license. Officials with the Marijuana Regulatory Agency will still vet applicants, and will check to see if the local city or township has passed a ban.
Many of those bans are temporary, as some communities wanted to wait to make a decision until the state had put together its regulations. As those regulations are expected to be announced by the end of June, some communities may change their position before October.
Josh Hovey, spokesman for the Michigan Cannabis Industry Association, said he’s expecting the number of local bans to decrease by the fall.
«We’re not expecting too many surprises in the adult-use rules because the law follows the medical marijuana law so closely already,» Hovey said. «If a community passed Proposal 1 with any kind of decent margin, then they should be opting in.»
The Marijuana Regulatory Agency is choosing to wait until October to accept business license applications at the request of local municipalities, who requested the gap in order to make their decision, said Andrew Brisbo, agency director.
The rules the Marijuana Regulatory Agency plans to release by the end of the month will be «emergency rules,» which mean they expire in six months. They’re intended to help the industry launch.
«They really shape how the industry evolves over the next several years,» Hovey said. «The rules can determine how high the barrier of entry is to obtain a license.»
But even though the agency plans to start accepting business licenses in October, it’s unclear how long it will be until the first recreational sale will occur.
That all depends on how quickly cities and townships can adopt local licensing programs and adjust their zoning ordinances — and who will be allowed to grow recreational marijuana under the state’s rules, Hovey said.
If the state requires recreational marijuana to be a separate crop from medical marijuana, Hovey said Michigan would likely see the first adult-use sale by March 2020.