Michi­gan, Illi­nois pre­par­ing to sell recre­ational mar­i­juana

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - NATION | WORLD - By David Eg­gert and Kath­leen Foody

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — James Daly is ea­ger to make mar­i­juana history on Sun­day, when he plans to open the doors to Ar­bors Well­ness, beckon the lengthy line out­side and legally start sell­ing recre­ational pot for the first time in the Mid­west.

“We’ve worked very hard to be pre­pared,” said Daly, who owns the med­i­cal dis­pen­sary that, for now, is among just six shops in Michi­gan — mostly in Ann Arbor — ap­proved to start sell­ing for adult use in De­cem­ber. The busi­ness is dou­bling staff and has fielded calls from po­ten­tial cus­tomers across the state along with neigh­bor­ing Ohio and In­di­ana.

“The end of pro­hi­bi­tion is his­toric,” he said. “We wanted to rip the Band-Aid off.”

Both Michi­gan and Illi­nois, which al­lows sales start­ing Jan. 1, are of­fi­cially join­ing nine other states that broadly al­low mar­i­juana sales. Com­pa­nies are rush­ing to com­plete ren­o­va­tions at dis­pen­saries, ex­pand their grow­ing fa­cil­i­ties and get staff hired and trained.

In both states, a lim­ited num­ber of busi­nesses have re­ceived state li­censes let­ting them sell recre­ational prod­ucts ini­tially. But those same re­tail­ers must keep enough prod­uct on hand to sup­ply people cer­ti­fied as pa­tients un­der med­i­cal mar­i­juana laws.

The con­di­tions are “al­most a guar­an­tee” that Illi­nois and Michi­gan cus­tomers will ex­pe­ri­ence long lines, prod­uct short­ages and po­ten­tially high prices in the early stages, said Adam Orens, co-founder of the Mar­i­juana Pol­icy Group.

“They’ve got to get through the grow­ing pains to get a sys­tem im­ple­mented,” he said.

In Michi­gan, where vot­ers le­gal­ized recre­ational pot just over a year ago, reg­u­la­tors who be­gan ac­cept­ing li­cense ap­pli­ca­tions Nov. 1 are aid­ing the tran­si­tion by let­ting med­i­cal grow­ers, pro­ces­sors and dis­pen­saries trans­fer up to half their prod­ucts to the recre­ational side un­der cer­tain con­di­tions.

But mar­i­juana is un­likely to be more broadly avail­able un­til more busi­nesses be­come li­censed and ad­di­tional com­mu­ni­ties au­tho­rize sales.

More than 1,400 of Michi­gan’s nearly 1,800 ci­ties, town­ships and vil­lages are not al­low­ing recre­ational busi­nesses. Even Detroit, home to the most med­i­cal dis­pen­saries in the state, has de­layed recre­ational sales un­til at least Jan. 31.

“This is brand-new for a lot of mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties. I think it’s im­por­tant that they are do­ing their due dili­gence and tak­ing an ap­proach that hon­ors the will of their people,” said An­drew Brisbo, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Mar­i­juana Reg­u­la­tory Agency, which has awarded 18 li­censes and ap­proved 78 pre­qual­i­fi­ca­tion ap­pli­ca­tions.

He said he ex­pects adult sales to oc­cur in “some con­sis­tent form” at a greater num­ber of Michi­gan lo­ca­tions by the end of March.

In Illi­nois, seven months will have sep­a­rated Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s sign­ing of leg­is­la­tion per­mit­ting people 21 and older to buy and pos­sess mar­i­juana and the start of sales in Jan­uary.

The first round of ap­pli­ca­tions is lim­ited to ex­ist­ing med­i­cal mar­i­juana re­tail­ers, and about 30 are newly li­censed to sell recre­ational prod­ucts. More could be ap­proved be­fore Jan­uary.

Most of the state’s li­censed cul­ti­va­tion com­pa­nies are ex­pand­ing their space to meet higher de­mand for mar­i­juana prod­ucts. But that work takes time, too.

Mark de Souza, CEO of the state’s largest mar­i­juana pro­ducer, Rev­o­lu­tion Global, said he has heard from dis­pen­sary op­er­a­tors “pan­icked” that they could have empty shelves within months of adult sales be­gin­ning.

But he be­lieves the over­all struc­ture that Illi­nois’ law cre­ated will be­come the in­dus­try’s “gold stan­dard.”

“You’re go­ing to en­sure ev­ery­thing from com­pli­ance to truth in la­bel­ing to taxes to con­sumer safety,” he said. “We don’t think any short-term sup­ply is­sues are go­ing to be harm­ful.”

David Eg­gert / As­so­ci­ated Press

Mar­i­juana is on dis­play at Ar­bors Well­ness in Ann Arbor, Mich. The shop could be the first in the Mid­west to legally start sell­ing recre­ational pot.

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