Elect Friendly Folks
from the monthly column, “Detroit Watch” by Larry Gabriel
The major issue for those who want to be in the cannabis business in this state right now is to pass the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act on Nov. 6. Legalizing recreational use is the key to expanding a robust and legal cannabis business landscape. No legalization means no business outside of the medical marijuana system and a much smaller marketplace.
How potentially large? There are about 269,000 medical marijuana patients in Michigan. However the state adult population rests at somewhere over 7 million people which is a much larger potential market. Of course, not every adult is going to use cannabis, but if the state mirrors the national average of 22 percent who do use it, that’s some 1.5 million potential cannabis customers.
The potential recreational market dwarfs the size of the current medical market. That means a lot more work for people who grow the plants, process the material, bake the cookies, make the packages and all the things it takes to put a product in front of a customer. Just consider the number of real estate deals will need be made to accommodate these enterprises.
It all depends on the vote going the right way in November.
And there is a group dedicated to the vote going the wrong way in November: Healthy and Productive Michigan.
One of the talking points pushed by this anti-cannabis organization is that legal marijuana will discourage businesses from “relocating to Michigan or staying in Michigan.” It also makes allusions to workplace safety and employer liability.
While it’s possible that some businesses may use marijuana prohibition as a guiding principle on where to locate, there is no business exodus from Colorado or California or any of the nine states and the District of Columbia that have recreational legalization. Probably, if trends continue, in the next decade a business will have to relocate off of Earth in order to avoid cannabis.
In the short run, if Michigan legalizes recreational use Nov. 6 then there will be 10 or more states with legal recreational marijuana and the number of medical marijuana state will also likely increase. There are several states where legalization of some type or the other are on the ballots.
That brings us to the question of where can businesses go to avoid marijuana? It’s getting harder and harder to find a cannabis-free state. In fact, with Canada going for legal recreational use starting Oct. 17 and Mexico liberalizing its laws there may soon be nowhere to run.
The other side of that coin is that the numerous new businesses a blossoming cannabis industry brings. Not only the five classes of business — growing, secure transport, testing, processors and retail sales — the state allows that actually come into contact with marijuana, but other businesses such as making packaging and labels, grow systems, etc. Numerous existing industries electrical, carpentry, law, real estate, HVAC and more will have new avenues.
Not to mention special events. The Ann Arbor Hash Bash has turned into a four day, multi-venue event that brings thousands of people to town. People are spending money at hotels, restaurants and shops in the area. There’s nothing to stop enterprising people from developing local cannabis events into larger attractions.
So legalizing recreational cannabis in Michigan is a business issue. You want to have a cannabis business here. Help get the law passed on Nov. 6
Elect friendly folks
Although passing recreational legalization will make the biggest impact for potential cannabis businesses, who wins the gubernatorial election and other seats makes a difference. These past eight years we’ve had a governor who doesn’t care about cannabis and an attorney general who is openly hostile to it. AG Bill Schuette has made opposing marijuana a cornerstone of his political career. Schuette pulled county prosecutors and state law enforcement into his orbit and literally destroyed lives of people who were operating under the good graces of their local governments. He went so far as to threaten to charge state police officers with distribution if they returned legal medical marijuana that had been confiscated to its rightful owners.
Republican Schuette says he opposes legal recreational marijuana but would accept the will of the people if the law passes. That doesn’t sound like a person who is ready to help usher in a positive business climate. In fact, his history as an attorney general dealing with legal medical marijuana proves the point.
It is pretty clear that his Democratic opponent Gretchen Whitmer is a much more cannabis friendly candidate. She says she’s a yes vote on the initiative and she believes it will pass. In addition, attorney general candidate Dana Nessel openly courted the marijuana community in order to get the Democratic Party nomination. It sounds like a developing cannabis industry will find a much friendlier atmosphere in Lansing in a Whitmer administration.
Larry Gabriel is a Detroit-based journalist who has been editor of the Metro Times, UAW Solidarity magazine and the American Cultivator, as well as an editor and writer for the Detroit Free Press. Gabriel has won several awards from the Michigan Press Association and Assocation of Alternative Newsmedia.