Michigan Marijuana Laws & Tips for Winning a License in the Great Lakes State
Michiganders from Kalamazoo to Sault St. Marie have compelled lawmakers to reshape Michigan marijuana laws as of late. In 2008, voters approved medical marijuana and a law was enacted the following month making it legal. Then, in November 2018, citizens returned to the ballot box, voting 56-44 to approve recreational cannabis use.
And just in time, too.
The great state of Michigan has been best known for tourism, auto manufacturing, and Detroit’s world-renowned Motown sound. However, the shut-down of assembly lines, crushing poverty, and international trade wars have dramatically impacted Michigan’s economy.
Now, Michigan marijuana laws aim to mend fences and reboot the economy in the Rust Belt and beyond.
If you’re ready to explore what the cannabis industry has to offer business owners in Michigan, it’s time to get hip to the jive of Michigan marijuana laws and discover what business options are available for you.
Michigan Marijuana Laws
The Great Lakes State is the first in the midwest to approve recreational cannabis. On December 6, 2018, Michigan rolled out the first phase of Proposal 1 giving the green light to recreational consumption of marijuana by adults 21 and older.
The legal possession limit is 10 ounces and all amounts over 2.5 ounces must be secured in a locked room or container. The state’s primary focus is on protecting children and ensuring that marijuana is something only adults can partake in.
For aspiring cannabis business owners, cultivation of up to 12 plants per household is permissible. Also, you may travel with up to 2.5 ounces or 15 grams of concentrate, as long as you steer clear of schools, school buses, correctional facilities, and federal property.
Making a gift of up to 2.5 ounces or 15 grams of concentrate is legal. Above all, though, public consumption is strictly outlawed.
Not All Municipalities Are On Board… Yet
There’s a cannabis conundrum in many Michigan communities. Despite the fact that the state has voted in favor of allowing cannabis into the Michigan economy, over half of Michigan’s municipalities have decided to opt-out of allowing adult-use marijuana businesses within their borders. At least for now.
Some cities and townships view such operations as an opportunity, but others remain unconvinced of their potential net benefit.
As Michigan’s opioid drug problem has climbed to the second-worst in the country, lingering misinformation about marijuana may cloud the view of some who worry that sanctioning recreational cannabis could harm their communities.
Another tangential issue that is causing a lack of support for the cannabis industry is vaping. Illnesses and deaths tied to vaping have created a new crisis. While research is still being conducted, some blame manufacturers who are cutting corners by using non-natural ingredients in cartridges.
Until the vaping issue is sorted out, anticipate that opponents to vaping may offer resistance as you aspire to build a business in the cannabis industry.
However, the reluctance of the opted-out municipalities is likely to be short-lived. Many municipal leaders are generally supportive of Proposition 1 in its entirety, but are reticent to jump on board until they see successful implementation elsewhere.
Michigan marijuana laws and cannabis business culture currently resemble that of California where 63% of polled voters favor local cannabis stores, but 3/4 of all cities have opted against them.
Our prediction: As more states move toward legalization, more communities see the benefit of a cannabis-friendly economy, and federal laws like the Safe Banking Act gain momentum, additional locales will green-light adult-use cannabis commerce.
Open-Season for Licenses Begins This Fall
As of November 1st, 2019, Michigan’s Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MMRA) will begin accepting applications for 11 types of licenses available under Michigan marijuana laws. There are 5 tiers of grower’s licenses, along with those for processors, retailers, secure transporters, safety and compliance facilities, event organizers, and consumption establishments.
Microbusinesses will occupy one of the grower tiers while straddling the verticals of processing, packaging, and selling to individuals. Though they may not sell to other businesses.
Adult-use applicants won’t be subject to the requirement that oblige medical license applicants to provide proof of assets between $150,000 and $500,000 (depending on license type) to qualify. However, medical licensees will enjoy priority consideration if they apply to enter the recreational market.
Municipalities – not the state – will determine the total number of licenses they allow. Application and renewal fees are found within Michigan’s Adult-Use Emergency Rules, but some applicants can qualify for discounted fees.
Social Equity & Demographic Discounts
Michigan marijuana laws identify 19 cities as being the most disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition and enforcement. To level the playing field and encourage participation from these communities, the state is offering discounts for license applications and renewals.
Per the Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) website, discounts will be offered in the form of:
- A 25% fee reduction for those who have been a resident of one of the 19 disproportionally impacted communities for the past five years
- An additional 25% fee reduction if the individual(s) holding majority ownership have had a marijuana-related conviction.
- An additional 10% fee reduction if the individual(s) holding majority ownership were registered as primary caregivers for at least two years between 2008 and 2017.
Of the 19 designated communities, three of them – Mt. Pleasant, Mt. Morris, and Saginaw – are currently opted out of adult-use marijuana. Saginaw has announced it will revisit its decision in a year.
Angling for a License
To snag a license in Michigan, knowledge is key. As a front-runner in paving the nation’s way for marijuana laws and other health-impacting legislation, Michigan has a strong spotlight aimed at each move the state makes in this arena. Therefore, licenses will be awarded to only the most deserving business owners who put together an iron-clad application.
The prevailing theme throughout all of Michigan’s determination criteria is community.
If you’re angling for a Michigan marijuana license, be sure to learn the highlights and pain points of the community where you want to set up shop. Go to city council meetings. Get to know people in the mayor’s office and down at the courthouse. Introduce yourself to business owners who may become your new neighbors. Listen, and learn.
Tip: It’s okay (read: encouraged!) to drop a few names on your application.
Connections are crucial. You may need a zoning variance or help handling an objection, so knowing the right people can make or break your business’s success. Strengthen your reputation by getting involved in the community. Go to that pancake breakfast and make time to volunteer.
Also, make sure that you’re factoring the community into your business plan and the way your cannabis business will have a positive impact. Have a strong community-driven why behind your mission that transcends your financial goals and share it with the application review board.
Consider forming partnerships with hospitals and career placement centers to help support others in need. Become a part of essential research to show that you’re on board with Michigan’s goal of being a trailblazer.
When your heart’s in the right place, others – including the license review board – become sympathetic to and supportive of your goals. Hop on that soapbox and make your stance clear.
From Application to Business Navigation
In addition to building goodwill and community support, you’ll need to submit an impeccable, error-free application. There are several items at the top of Michigan’s priority list to be aware of, including safety and a thorough plan for your facility.
A compliant facilities plan that meets strict criteria is essential. Additionally, licenses will be awarded to those applicants who have thought through their safety and security standard operating procedures (SOPs) and have made it clear that their priorities are aligned with the state’s.
Michigan marijuana laws provide clear guidelines that applicants must meet in order to succeed. Prepare to be scrutinized, especially if you’re among the first wave of applicants trying to stake a claim. If you’re approved, you’ll help shape the future of an industry and many will be watching.
It takes industry expertise, deep knowledge of what Michigan is looking for in its ideal cannabis pioneers, and an impeccable application to win a license in a state with such high standards.
At Higher Yields Cannabis Consulting, my team and I can help put together any piece of your application, from your financial and security plans to your storefront mock-up, and assist with any other application essentials to create a win-win in Michigan. Reach out to schedule a consultation.