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Michigan's marijuana business sees massive boom in pandemic, expected to surpass $1B

Posted at 5:47 AM, Apr 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-20 07:00:17-04

(WXYZ) — Tuesday is April 20, also known as 4/20, a special date every year for those who use and sell recreational marijuana. Ever since Michigan voters legalized it in late 2018, the state said sales have really taken off.

According to the state, recreational marijuana generated $83 million in tax revenue last fiscal year. This year, it's expected to top $165 million.

That's money the state said funds road repairs, schools, and goes back to communities with marijuana businesses.

Michigan is one of 16 states where recreational marijuana is fully legal, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Michigan's regulatory agency said early on, our state looked to Colorado and California on how to regulate the industry. Now, they said the state is looked at as a leader.

"I'm not sure the industry could have grown any more than it did during the pandemic. I think it's surprised us all," Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency Executive Director Andrew Brisbo said.

Brisbo added that recreational and medicinal use netted $776 million in the fiscal year 2020. This year, he's projecting $1.3 billion.

Dispensaries like Huron View in Ann Arbor are reaping the rewards of a faithful clientele.

"A lot of these people are coming in because they got some kind of illness, and then we customize it for them," Huron View Owner Christina Montague said.

She opened in December 2017, starting with medicinal. She expanded to recreational when it became legal a year in and a half ago.

She and her daughter, Teesha, say they focus on education before elevation.

"Cannabis is not a one size fits all. Some people don't like gummies. Some people don't like to smoke. They can't smoke or they're going through different things and different treatments. They're on medication. So we definitely help them pick some that's right for them," she said.

"We're not here selling dope. We're here selling hope," Aric Klar, the CEO of Quality Roods, added.

Quality Roots has shops in Hamtramck and Battle Creek. The stakes were high, having opened during the pandemic. They have a location in Berkley on the way, and each shop sees 250 to 400 customers a day.

"I would say that the pandemic has helped us adjust and helped our business flourish because of those adjustments. But of course, it's a daily hurdle getting through all these regulations," he said.

Lake Superior State University is also launching a scholarship in cannabis chemistry, the first accredited college program of its kind, according to Dr. Steven Johnson.

"It's not a party degree. These students are leaving, they're chemists," he said.

Future chemists will work in the lab to ensure product safety and compliance, analyzing not only what's in the plant, but where it came from.

"Right now there are too many jobs. We need to produce more graduates to fill those," Johnson said.

"Those programs are very important for the growth of the industry and in terms of building consumer confidence and starting to normalize the industry itself in the cannabis space," Brisbo added

Keep in mind, marijuana for any purpose is still considered illegal at the federal level.

Brisbo said federal policy reform seems to be on the horizon and he wants to make sure states are able to give input.