Guest Column

Cannabis industry coming to Michigan faster than a freight train

July 20, 2018
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With Michigan revamping its 10-year-old medical program and legalization on the ballot in November, the cannabis industry has become the topic of many conversations in Michigan. In 2016, Gov. Rick Snyder signed a set of bills creating a commercial licensing system for cannabis cultivations, processors, provisioning centers, secure transporters and testing laboratories. Last December, the state started accepting applications for licensing and already has received more than 600 applications. Earlier this month, the state issued its first licenses to a 6,000-plant cultivation, a processing facility, a provisioning center and a secure transport company. While some might believe the cannabis industry could bring local governments and law enforcement more challenges, it seems the industry will do our communities more good than harm.

More jobs, more opportunities

According to ZipRecruiter, a job-posting website, the cannabis industry is the fastest-growing job category in the United States. The company says it saw a 445 percent growth last year compared to the year before, growing faster than both the health care and technology industries combined. In 2015, the year after Colorado legalized recreational cannabis sales, the legal marijuana industry created 18,000 full-time jobs. With legalization looming and the fact that Michigan has double the population of Colorado and the second-largest medical cannabis market in the country, job opportunities will be bountiful. It will even provide jobs to medical marijuana patients and recreational users who might not otherwise be able to obtain jobs due to strict drug testing policies.

Something that is frequently overlooked is the types of opportunities this provides business owners and other industries that help support the cannabis industry. The great thing about the cannabis industry is it provides business owners an opportunity to think outside the box and create a new service or product that someone else has not yet thought about. It also brings more business to other industries that support the cannabis industry, like insurance companies or businesses that currently offer services to manufacturing companies.

Needed tax revenue

According to the Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency, the new program is projected to grow to $711 million annually, with a $21-million chunk going to the state and municipalities that allow licensed businesses. A 3 percent excise tax is charged to the customer when they buy cannabis from a provisioning center. Twenty-five percent of the excise tax goes to the municipality, 30 percent goes to the state, 30 percent goes to the county and the remaining 15 percent goes to state and local law enforcement. So far, the state has collected $3.5 million in application fees, and they have yet to start collecting the $48,000 regulatory assessment fee or taxes from product currently being sold in dispensaries that are operating under emergency rules.

If adult-use marijuana passes in November, the excise tax will be 10 percent, with 35 percent going to schools, 35 percent to road repairs and maintenance, 15 percent to municipalities and 15 percent to counties where businesses are located.

Patient accessibility

As of right now, there are almost 300,000 medical marijuana patients registered with the state, 30,000 of them reside in West Michigan, and there are very few provisioning centers in the area to help supply that demand. At this point, there is only one provisioning center in West Michigan, Emerald City Provisioning Center in Nunica. The lack of accessibility forces patients to grow their own cannabis, buy untested and unregulated product from a caregiver or black market, or drive out of their way to obtain their medicine.

Earlier this month, the state expanded its list of qualifying conditions, adding 10 new debilitating conditions, including Parkinson’s disease and autism. Over the last several years, the state’s medical marijuana program has grown about 20 percent each year, and with the expansion, the medical program is expected to grow even more.

How to get involved

Whether you are a medical marijuana patient, a business owner who wants to help service the industry or a worker looking to land a job in cannabis, it’s very important to use your voice. Let’s say someone generously offers you a piece of cake at a moment you are hungry. Chances are you wouldn’t just sit there and stare at it. Instead, you would grab it and take a bite. There is no need to just sit there and stare at an opportunity as big as this one. We are watching history unfold before our eyes. If you truly want to see the cannabis industry thrive in West Michigan, then call your local and state leaders and let them know. It could be the best cake you ever had.

Jamie Cooper is founder of Cannabiz Connection, Canna Media Works and co-founder of Industry Power Women. She also is a committee member for the Smart & Safe GR voter initiative.

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