It’s been a crazy year with elections, a pandemic, and well…elections, a pandemic, and cannabis. As 2020 comes to a close we’re highlighting a few events and activities that frame what we think has been a pretty good year in cannabis.
Cannabis: An Essential Business
Back at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, we held our breath to see where cannabis would land. When other companies were closed—Governor Whitmer determined that the benefit of keeping cannabis businesses open was essential to Michiganders and provisioning centers continued to operate. A likely deciding factor is that most cannabis businesses in Michigan provide medical marijuana and that medical designation is vital to people’s health. Cannabis provisioning centers did well during the early shutdown months and proved to flexible in making curbside service and delivery part of the business model.
More Americans Favor Cannabis Legalization
Gallup research regarding cannabis found that people are more accepting of cannabis than any other time in history. Gallup polling found that 68 percent of respondents believe that cannabis should be legalized—the highest number since 1969 when it was 12 percent. This mirrors the Pew research from the year before where ⅔ of Americans approved of legalization. It’s time for states to accept and embrace cannabis and safe time and effort in legalization. It’s going to happen!
In every state where cannabis was on the ballot in 2020, it won approval. In Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota recreational cannabis was approved. In South Dakota and Mississippi, it was approved for medical use. All measure won handily—by five percent or more. This data is further proof that the war on drugs is fading, and people have a healthy understanding of cannabis as medicine or for personal use. With this election result, 15 states have adult-use cannabis as the law.
The MORE ACT
On the federal level, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act) was approved by the House of Representatives in December and goes to the Senate in 2021. It is the most sweeping change in cannabis law reform that the U.S. has ever seen. If enacted, it will end the criminalization of cannabis by removing it from the controlled substance list. It would also eliminate criminal penalties for cannabis possession. One of the Act’s highlights is that the decriminalization of cannabis will be retroactive, and arrests, charges and convictions would be automatically expunged—which is excellent for federal charges. States could still have the ability to criminalize cannabis. The measure includes a 5 percent tax on retail sales which will go to a fund that would aid communities impacted by the war on drugs.
Grand Rapids Finally Goes Rec
After several fits and starts, the City of Grand Rapids finally adopted a recreational cannabis ordinance. Just one year after most citizens in the City voted for Prop 1, we see shops opening. The City Commission attempted to throw additional roadblocks in front of applicants with a proposed Hail Mary rule regarding youth centers, which would have further restricted where cannabis businesses could locate. That proposal didn’t pass, but other restrictions still exist.
Millions and Millions in Sales
We always knew it would be big, and despite the pandemic, legal cannabis sales in Michigan exceeded $440 million in just under one year. What makes this even more impressive or interesting is that the growth of cannabis businesses (and the supply chain) are constrained by municipal zoning. Just 84 of Michigan’s 1700+ municipalities have zoned for adult-use cannabis sales. We see that ship is turning, and more communities are opting in. We encourage people who want to start a cannabis business to work with their local municipality. The more ordinances available to review and copy, the easier it is for elected officials to consider welcoming this new industry to their community. There are about 200 adult-use cannabis shops in Michigan, and it’s expected that 100 more will open their doors in 2021.
Social Equity in Cannabis
Social equity and Black-owned cannabis businesses made headlines this year. Social equity in cannabis means that people who were most harmed by the war on drugs—people of color and people in low-income neighborhoods deserve an advantage when it comes to getting into the cannabis industry. We could not agree more and believe that social equity programs need to be part of any cannabis ordinance. Sadly, even with social equity discounts, getting into cannabis takes a significant amount of resources, connections, and business expertise. Leveling that playing field will take a banking system that works with cannabis and additional supports for novice business people.
We truly believe 2021 will be even more prosperous for the Michigan cannabis industry, but overall 2020 was a pretty good year in cannabis.