Recreational Dispensaries Open in Michigan but Prices, Distance Lock out Many

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Many states have struggled with the timely implementation of a cannabis legalization law, and Michigan has proven to not be the exception to that norm. When voters legalized cannabis at the polls in 2018, the theoretical prohibition of cannabis ended mere weeks later. Just about a year ago, people across the state of Michigan got the opportunity to spark up legally for the first time ever.

Unfortunately, the recreational market has taken some time to establish and has yet to really get a foothold in Michigan, leaving many still vulnerable to prosecution. Sunday, December 1st, 2019 marked the opening of the first recreational dispensaries in the Great Lakes State. Sadly, the first day of dispensary business was marked by only one community on the east side of the state having open shops, which was Ann Arbor.

One of those stores that did open had their prices leaked, and they are charging more than $20 a gram for standard cannabis flower and $13 for a pre-roll. While there will certainly be those who look at that ludicrous price as evidence of strong consumer demand, what it really is is a signifier of is the failure of Michigan lawmakers to follow through with the wishes of the people in a timely manner and the willingness of local communities to undermine actual democracy.

Given the dearth of available shops, it is perfectly predictable that the few that did open would charge ridiculous prices for their products. While it is likely that prices will go down as more licensed businesses are able to open their doors, the majority of people in Michigan aren’t going to benefit from recreational dispensaries. Almost four-fifths of all Michigan communities have banned dispensaries, often without any input from the citizens.

Powerful, entrenched individuals on town councils and in positions of local authority moved rapidly to pass local rules banning dispensaries with next to no community feedback or input. Once stores are open, the majority of people in the state of Michigan will need to travel long distances to legally purchase cannabis. While it is the prerogative of communities to decide what is sold in their neighborhood and what is not, it seems hypocritical for any village, township, or incorporated municipality to ban cannabis sales if they allow the purchase of alcohol or tobacco.

It will likely be some time before the playing field for cannabis businesses is truly even with that of other businesses. More importantly, there are likely years if not decades between the casual cannabis consumer and the affordable, easy access to cannabis they deserve under the law. Just about anyone can go buy beer if they are old enough, but in many states, those who want cannabis will have to pay a premium and travel to do their shopping.

For previous Ladybud articles about Michigan, click here.