by Rick Thompson/originally appeared in The Rolling Paper April 2020
Michigan, we will survive the COVID-19 crisis. And, after, we will thrive as we did before.
That is not a revolutionary statement. Everyone knows that we COVID-19 survivors will continue to charge forward into life. What we do need to be reminded about is, life will not be the same, at least for a while. Let’s look at how things will be different in the future.
People will be different. More folks will want to smoke their own joint and not share, even when gathered in smokey circles of friends. Some people may never want to get in a small circle again. Some may shy away from crowds or may not participate in things to the degree they used to. That’s just fine.
People shed fear at different rates. It will undoubtedly take years for some to shake off the fright they are experiencing right now. We shouldn’t tell anyone to stop being afraid, even though we may feel quite comfortable. We should not berate or tease people for being hesitant to join us at big gatherings. In all human things, compassion, both during and after the crisis.
Politics will be different. The crisis has disrupted the normal mode of lawmaking and governance. When we return to normal there will be a rush to accomplish all that was delayed; in that rush, corruption will thrive. Legislation’s hidden sweetheart deals and dark advantages are often exposed by public scrutiny. Citizen input and transparency in lawmaking are sacrificed when lawmakers rush the process, as legislatures and Congress will undoubtedly rush post-crisis to accomplish a year’s worth of work in just a few months.
In a post-crisis America, partisan politics will seize the nation. Those seeking office will point their accusatory fingers at those already in office. Elected officials will point their fingers at people in higher office. Each party will blame the other, and those who do not claim a party will blame the two-party system. The COVID-19 crisis is the perfect excuse for bashing anyone you don’t like, if bashing others is what you are really all about.
Although that pretty much describes pre-COVID-19 America, too, we have to avoid losing focus on watching the lawmakers and what bills they are passing instead of being caught up in an endless running Internet insult war. Democracy dies in darkness, they say; darkness is coming, I say, and we must defend Democracy until the light reappears.
The cannabis industry as a whole should rebound nicely after the virus. We won’t emerge unscathed, though. Hemp farmers may have had difficulty getting crops in due to the crisis affecting labor and supply. Some smaller businesses in the ancillary industries may have failed, as small businesses everywhere will fail due to the crisis. Petitioning for ballot initiatives will be very difficult in large cities and for statewide issues, if the current projected time-frames for lifting the social distancing guidelines hold true. Each provisioning center operating under ‘curbside pickup or delivery only’ orders has seen same-store sales take a dive from their pre-crisis levels as virus-fearful cannabis users turn back to the state’s most dominant source of marijuana: the unregulated market.
Michigan’s registered and regulated businesses in both the medical and adult-use programs were strong prior to the health care emergency. Industry operations will continue throughout the crisis, thanks to Gov. Whitmer naming the cannabis supply chain as an essential industry. Ballot proposals and pending legislative efforts to adopt medical or recreational laws in other states have stalled, failed or been put on hold pending the end of the crisis. Our laws are already in place, mostly.
Cannabis is the state’s largest growth industry. Michigan’s strong cannabis program was a huge advantage over other states prior to the crisis; after, our advantage will grow. Our state’s leaders must cast aside any lingering doubt concerning the legitimacy or the significance of Michigan’s cannabis industry. We must encourage local approval for cannabis businesses, lower the barrier to entry, engage a real social equity program that reaches across multiple state-level departments to create advantage, reinforce the medical laws. If we do these things, our state can fully realize its potential for national market growth in a post-crisis America.