The Wolverine state continues to lead the pack in the Midwest.
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While indications of the rapid growth in both medical and recreational cannabis markets continue to expand to all parts of the country, one of the most eye-catching places to watch is Michigan.
Voters there approved a measure in 2018 to make recreational marijuana legal in the state. Ten years earlier, voters approved legalizing medical marijuana. Michigan stands out as one of the leaders in the cannabis industry in the Midwest.
Now, Andrew Brisbo, executive director of the Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency, says state’s cannabis sales could reach $1 billion in 2020. Whether it gets that high this year or not (it had already pushed past $200 million in July), he projects the market could reach as high as $3 billion in the coming years.
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Sales remain highBrisbo based his projection on numbers he has seen since the coronavirus pandemic hit the US in March. Marijuana sales skyrocketed, setting records for five weeks in a row for both medical and adult-use cannabis.
“Overall the industry has been going like gangbusters during the pandemic,” Brisbo said in an interview with Benzinga. “There’s been a tremendous interest in cannabis in Michigan. I think a lot of people are using it for self-medication, easing of the mind, and stress reduction.”
Medical marijuana sales were $26 million in December 2019, when recreational marijuana first went on sale in Michigan. By March, combined adult-use and medical sales were $52 million. In July, that number reached $109 million.
Brisbo said large, multi-state operators will succeed in Michigan. But the state also wants smaller owners to thrive. “In the history of the U.S., small to middle-sized businesses are some of the biggest job providers overall,” Brisbo said.
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Social equity is part of the Michigan cannabis plans. Brisbo says the state’s social equity efforts are “not where we need it to be.” Only two Black dispensary owners have obtained a license, while hundreds could apply. In talking with potential minority business owners, state officials found they face many issues, including lack of access to capital.
Brisbo says his office’s approach has been to “think creatively of ways to bridge the gaps.” That includes connecting potential owners with low-cost attorneys and others who can offer guidance on navigating the cannabis licensing process. This support can help Black and other minority business owners “turn their dreams into reality,” he said.
Even with the rosy outlook, Michigan still faces the challenges faced by other states. For example, some municipalities and counties have banned the sale of cannabis in their jurisdictions, reducing access to many Michiganders.
Also, dispensaries across the country still must operate without traditional banking services, leaving business owners scrambling to find safe alternatives.
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