Marijuana programs in the Midwest aren’t much of an improvement on those in the South. While Illinois and Michigan have both legalized adult use — and the Ohio marijuana program seems poised to follow suit — other Midwestern states remain restrictive.
The Midwest is split pretty evenly between the restrictive states and the front-runners, but even many of the latter have fallen into disorder recently. With much of the region currently inaccessible, the greatest potential for cannabis success in the Midwest lies in Ohio.
Here’s what you need to know about the state of cannabis regulations in the Midwest states and why the Ohio marijuana program might be your best option in this region.
The Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota marijuana programs are not very promising at this time. However, they are worth keeping in mind should things change in the future.
Wisconsin & Iowa
Both Wisconsin’s and Iowa’s medical marijuana programs are extremely restrictive. For instance, Iowa’s program isn’t even fully medical; rather, they call it a medical cannabidiol program, and it only allows a patient 4.5 grams of THC every 90 days.
Unfortunately, these programs, especially in Iowa, are also very racially disproportionate. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, Black individuals are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis-related crimes than white individuals.
Minnesota has been a medical-only state since its first medical marijuana sale in 2015. Since then, there had been little to no movement on adult use until May of this year, when the Minnesota House of Representatives voted to legalize cannabis.
However, the regular session was adjourned only two days later, stalling the senate bill in a committee. It’s unlikely that legislation will pick the bill back up until at least the second half of 2022, but Minnesota is taking steps to improve its restrictive medical marijuana program by increasing its nine qualifying conditions to 17.
If you want to get into Minnesota’s market, the best thing you can do is to join local advocacy groups in their efforts to lobby for more reform. In the meantime, it may be well worth considering the less-restrictive Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio marijuana markets.
The Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio marijuana programs were front-runners for legalization in the Midwest. While some problems and delays have since cropped up, opportunity remains — especially in Ohio.
In Illinois, adult use sales began in January of 2020, shortly after legalizing adult use. But what seemed a promising start turned into an absolute nightmare with delays, lawsuits, and scandals.
We’d advise staying out of Illinois until the state can get itself sorted out and instead focusing on the Michigan and Ohio marijuana markets.
Michigan is legalized for both medical and adult use. While overall, the state itself is not terribly competitive, that can depend on the region. Detroit, for example, took years to get their adult-use program off the ground but is now a highly competitive market.
Michigan is a generally accessible state but leaves much of the regulating and restricting up to the municipalities. While the state has set certain limits on the total allotted number of cultivations or dispensaries, local levels set their own limits within their municipalities.
If you’re looking to get started in Michigan, first ensure you meet the municipality requirements, as those will be harder to meet than state requirements. It’s best to start with a list of areas you don’t want to operate in, and then see which of the remaining counties have municipality requirements you can viably meet.
Your facility must be ready for inspection within 60 days of submitting your second application, so you’ll need to be strategic in figuring out real estate and municipality limits ahead of time. Also, be open to considering areas in Michigan that might not seem ideal, because they may have more licenses available to you.
The Ohio marijuana program is currently medical only, but they did recently open up another round for dispensaries and will be awarding 130 licenses based on a lottery system. Licenses will be extremely difficult to win, and if you don’t already have everything prepared, you won’t likely have enough time to get into this round.
However, it’s possible Ohio may legalize adult use in 2022. Legislators have been pushing for it, and they’ve been cleared to collect signatures and potentially get a bill passed.
Two major fears keeping people from joining Ohio’s medical marijuana program may help push adult-use legalization through because these concerns would then become irrelevant:
- Taking medical marijuana — even for legitimate reasons — could cause some people to forfeit access to their other medications.
- In Ohio, it’s illegal to own both a gun and a medical marijuana card.
If you’re interested in getting into the Ohio marijuana market, be sure to follow updates on the signature collection and get involved by helping collect signatures yourself.
Ohio Marijuana Programs: The Midwest’s Point of Access
Despite some promising starts, the Midwest as a whole is pretty inaccessible, with potential Ohio marijuana programs as the only glimmer of hope. But if the other states can get their acts together, the Midwest could be a huge market for cannabusinesses.
If you’re interested in breaking into the Ohio marijuana market or other Midwest states, contact HYC for a feasibility study to explore your best options.