Opinion | Marijuana retail bans stunt Michigan's economic growth

Kelli Hykes is director of government relations at Weedmaps

In 2018, Michiganders voted for a system that would reduce crime, boost economic opportunity and improve the quality of life for countless residents. They voted to create a legal adult use marijuana market that would replace illicit sales. Now, it’s up to municipalities to carry out the will of voters and allow legal cannabis within their jurisdictions. However, some jurisdictions have already instituted cannabis retail bans, which prevent Michigan from realizing the economic and social benefits of a legal marketplace. 

Curbing illicit sales benefits communities. According to a recent report by the Journal of the American Medical Association, youth cannabis use is 10 percent lower in states that have legalized adult use cannabis. And a study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia shows neighborhood crime rates decrease almost 20 percent when a dispensary opens in the area. Furthermore, tax revenue from legal marijuana sales have put tens of millions of dollars back into local schools and public health programs in states that have legalized cannabis. 

Michigan residents have already seen significant benefits from the existing medical market, with more than a half-billion dollars in legal medicinal sales and over 10,000 jobs created. More evidence of this boost is visible in the capital; Lansing is on track to create over 2,000 new, well-paying jobs in the medical cannabis sector this year. Twenty new businesses in the city, none of which existed several years ago, will also invest a cumulative $80 million in capital improvement projects thanks to the thriving industry. 

Unfortunately, this is not translating on the adult-use side of the market. This new industry will thrive only if local leaders embrace this nascent market.

Still, the number of jobs in the cannabis industry is expected to double in the next three years as it crosses the billion-dollar threshold in Michigan. Over 200,000 jobs have already been created in the sector nationwide, and cannabis has already eclipsed the lucrative craft brewing industry in states like New York. Hard evidence of the economic growth is here, and it’s expanding rapidly in states wise enough to embrace it.  

However, that economic growth will be severely stunted if local governments ban licensing and adult-use sales of cannabis in their jurisdictions. Shutting out the legal adult use industry only drives revenue, talent and opportunity out of the state. The jobs associated with the cannabis industry will certainly still exist; they just won’t exist in Michigan if local bans persist. 

A lack of consistent, statewide access to cannabis can also make it harder for patients to access cannabis treatments. This disproportionately affects vulnerable populations like seniors, veterans and people with disabilities who cannot easily travel the long distances required to get to a licensed retailer. Many patients and their caregivers simply do not have the time or resources to spend multiple hours trying to get their medicine. 

Local bans drive consumers back to the illicit market. As a result, taxable revenue is lost, and profits that should be going to legal, regulated businesses end up going back into the pockets of illicit players. The illicit marketplace simply will not go away until there is enough legal access to meet demand. 

Illicit vendors without licenses do not pay taxes or require that customers confirm their age. Legal dispensaries do. State law mandates seed-to-sale tracking of every gram of cannabis sold from a dispensary to ensure accountability and safety standards. 

Cannabis bans deny revenue (and the good that revenue can do for schools, public safety and other programs), as well as jobs in a booming new industry. That is not what the people of Michigan asked for at the ballot box.

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middle of the mit
Sat, 10/05/2019 - 9:07pm

While I agree with most of this post, I will take umbrage to one point. Yes these local bans are hurting people who can not access their needed medicine, and YES it is medicine and DOES RELIEVE PAIN, I don't think most people go to what you would call a weed dealer any more. They have to find ways to skirt laws to get the LEGAL MEDICINE that locals are retroactively making illegal even when it is LEGAL.

So at least they are not encountering those that are still in the illicit market.

But those are people who have medical cards. Don't have one of those and you are in trouble, unless apparently you know unscrupulous people. But isn't that what the local cops want? More arrests means more dollars.

And to the commentor that said you are breaking laws, that was about California law. Because they were selling advertisement to registered and unregistered businesses. Yeah OK. But that's literally the only way you can find a dispensary in Northern Michigan without driving 40 miles or more.

Northern MI and it's police departments are doing a tremendous disservice to their communities by NOT allowing dispensaries. You are making law abiding people criminals for one. Two, you are refusing LAW ABIDING PEOPLE THEIR RIGHTS. Three, you are losing money by refusing these businesses and their tax money and the States money from coming in by simply not having one.

You are all so worried about our kids becoming Cheech and Chong, never realizing that Cheech and Chong went on to have profitable careers. Instead we are being mowed over by sober kids and adults texting on their phones, meth heads and drunks.

Priorities people.

Sun, 10/06/2019 - 8:45am

Please provide the FDA sources that support your statement. …..Anything?

middle of the mit
Tue, 10/08/2019 - 6:22pm

Isn't that funny? Matt wants me to provide proof of what I say.. from the Feds!~

Asking me to prove anything I say is a slap in the face to most of the posters and readers of these comments. Why? Because most of the conservative posters hardly ever prove what they are saying with a link or anything other than talking points or opinion.

But here it goes Matt. Up until recently It was literally ILLEGAL to research cannabis in the US.


[[The FDA is aware that there is considerable interest in the use of marijuana to attempt to treat a number of medical conditions, including, for example, glaucoma, AIDS wasting syndrome, neuropathic pain, cancer, multiple sclerosis, chemotherapy-induced nausea, and certain seizure disorders.

Before conducting testing in humans of a drug that has not been approved by the FDA, an investigator submits an investigational new drug (IND) application, which is reviewed by the FDA.]]

The problem with FDA's definition of cannabis is that they are defining it as a "new drug". It is not.


[[So, the Chinese used the hemp plant for rope, clothing, bowstrings, paper and of course, medicine. The ancient emperor, Shen-Nung (c.2700 B.C.), is known as the Father of Chinese Medicine. Because he was a good farmer and concerned about his suffering subjects, he looked to plants for cures. According to legend, Shen-Nung tried poisons and their antidotes on himself and then compiled the medical encyclopedia called, Pen Ts'ao. The Pen Ts'ao list hundreds of drugs derived from vegetable, animal and mineral sources. Among these drugs is the plant cannabis, "ma."

During the second century A.D., the Chinese surgeon, Hua T'o, began to use cannabis as an anesthesia. He combined cannabis resin with wine (ma-yo) and used it to reduce pain during surgery. He performed painful organ drafts, resectioning of the intestines, loin incisions, and chest incisions while the patient was anesthetized with ma-yo.]]

Now the problem you have Matt is this. Cannabis is all natural. You put it in dirt, put some light on it and some food and that is it. No synthesizing, no chemicals needed, no chemistry lab needed. But your Republican colleagues are still pushing to fast track those type of drugs through the FDA. And the side effects of those drugs? NO one knows. But you are OK with that, aren't ya?

And my bet is that you don't know a single soul who uses medical cannabis, do you? Otherwise they would tell you.



You can not say that oranges or limes cure scurvy, even though everyone knows they do, because they are not drugs they are natural and therefore can not be patented.


[[The U.S. FDA has recently notified at least one pharmacy that they will no longer be allowed to manufacture or distribute injectable vitamin C.

These two substances are often added to intravenous C to make the "Myers Cocktail," which many people use for a variety of chronic conditions -- usually under the care of a qualified physician.

The Alliance for Natural Health has this to say on the subject:

"... [W]hy is this being done? What possible rationale is offered? Because it's dangerous? No. Because it can't be patented and therefore won't be taken through the standard FDA approval process. No matter that vitamin C is one of the least toxic components of our food supply and liquid forms of it have been used safely for decades."]]


Tue, 11/12/2019 - 10:56pm

Why the hate for Republicans/conservatives? You think only one party got this issue across the finish line? I started going to events like Hash Bash literally 30 years ago and have only ONLY voted Republican since the late 1980's.

I think that your opinion of a stereo-typical Republican is stale and should be thought about. You might find allies on common topics...

Fabian Vasquez
Thu, 02/06/2020 - 11:01am

My sentiments exactly! My county has opted out of the medical and rec, market and put a community that has more homeless children than bigger citys in Michigan,in a financial ruin and had the most patients per capita than any other county in Michigan. Now the tax dollers and benefits go to other countys so do our young looking for opportunities that they decided to do away with. Thank God for the growers and caregivers of 49(420) can keep us in the medicine that has been denied and FUCK THE STATE!! We have it covered assholes! Long live the underground market now thriving and helping the poor and sick from misery that they impose.

Gary Lea
Sun, 10/06/2019 - 7:43am

This author has predicted too many scenarios for me to want to research. I do not believe that revenue, talent and opportunity will be driven from my state simply because a number of municipalities have decided to wait and see before opting into allowing their own marijuana merchants. Never underestimate the staggering power of increased revenue.

James Chapman
Sun, 10/06/2019 - 7:59am

You may or may not be correct. Unfortunately the law was poorly written. Our Township has opted out because the law does not allow the county authority to enforce any zoning laws on these businesses. It is not cost effective to create our own zoning department for one industry and we are not going to allow them to operate unregulated when every other industry must comply with zoning

middle of the mit
Tue, 10/08/2019 - 6:45pm

That's funny. Locals have the ability to opt out yet they can't use their own zoning laws to regulate the businesses? Then why do some places have them, and they are faaaaaaar removed from town?

Most of localities in my area say they won't allow it because they can't find a place that isn't 1000ft from a Church or School or Federal building and off the main road.

How does that happen? Like Matt said, could you please provide proof that the State somehow denies you a right to opt out yet doesn't allow to say where those businesses will be?

And those businesses being unregulated? Since when did Republicans start liking regulations? You don't mind it if big corporations pollute your water or air or land. And you want to make it easier for them.

What gives? Trying to stop people from enjoying something mind altering at home, the only legal place they are allowed to use it? As opposed to getting wasted at a bar and then driving home or complaining because your favorite fishing spot or outdoor recreation area (from which you also have to drive home) might no longer allow alcohol, mainly because of all the fighting and making the place not family friendly?

Mon, 10/07/2019 - 9:02am

if villages and townships are going to deny legal sales of marijuana what are they going to do to prevent illegal sales and people bringing it in from legal purchases outside of their jurisdiction?Ricky

Mon, 10/07/2019 - 11:21am

In my town the powers that be sent around a survey - to their friends and only their friends- who all made the decision that we would not participate in this new industry. I'm not sure how decision by buddy system is even legal. They must like our empty storefronts, and that we can't pull in crowds to our local events anymore.

Fabian Vasquez
Thu, 02/06/2020 - 11:16am

Same in my town, were the money is kept to the wealthy and the poor get shit on. This is an industry that was started decades ago by the mom and pop growers and will continue to be in place no matter what the fuc the state says. Let them ban sales i know were to find the medicine i need from the same place ive been getting it for more than 40 years! We voted for this shit let us do it or we'll do it anyways. Im not paying $20 a gram for inferior weed that ive got to travel 100 miles round trip for when i can get it here delivered to my door @ $8 a gram the finest medicinal cannabis and extracts in the state by far. Screw em if they dont want our tax dollers!!

Fabian Vasquez
Thu, 02/06/2020 - 11:22am

Same in my town, they had a private town meeting without the town knowing of course, oceana county were the money is kept to the wealthy and the poor get shit on. This is an industry that was started decades ago by the mom and pop growers and will continue to be in place no matter what the fuc the state says. Let them ban sales i know were to find the medicine i need from the same place ive been getting it for more than 40 years! We voted for this shit let us do it or we'll do it anyways. Im not paying $20 a gram for inferior weed that ive got to travel 100 miles round trip for when i can get it here delivered to my door @ $8 a gram the finest medicinal cannabis and extracts in the state by far. Screw em if they dont want our tax dollers!! I got friends too mofos!!!

Paul Samways CPA
Mon, 10/07/2019 - 12:21pm

Weedmaps has made and continues to make millions of dollars advertising non-licensed illegal marijuana operations on their site/app. Do as I say, and don't disturb how I get paid. Supposedly, they are going to stop in CA at the end of the year, but not mention of doing the same in MI. Hypocritical waste of space in a respected news outlet.

Mon, 10/07/2019 - 12:48pm

Why doesn't Weedmaps stop advertising unlawful, unlicensed delivery and retail services in Michigan that compete against licensed, tax-paying businesses? Weedmaps should get a class action lawsuit filed against it over this in Michigan if it doesn't stop. Weedmaps is hurting small business in Michigan also by advertising unlicensed businesses.

Jennifer Miller
Thu, 03/05/2020 - 12:43pm

It’s nice to see a story that doesn’t demonize hemp flower and CBD for once. If I were younger, I’d seriously consider moving to Michigan and start to farm it. But, I’m a little too old for that lol. But, the alternative isn’t too bad. I can stay at my home and order hemp products from sites like https://cbdflowerusa.com/, so it would be a great gig either way.