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There has been a mixed response since last year’s vote to legalize recreational marijuana in Michigan. Over 62% of Americans believe marijuana should be legalized and regulated like alcohol, according to a recent survey by Pew Research Center in Washington. This being said, it may come as a surprise that over 360 Michigan municipalities, in 74 counties, have already opted out completely, according to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA). Several cities have opted in to allow recreational facilities, but many are still working on their ordinances, waiting for more clarity and details in the State Law, or delaying their opt-in decision.

Jackson, for example, has passed an ordinance allowing recreational marijuana establishments. Nearly two-thirds of Jackson’s residents voted to legalize recreational marijuana last year, but the city is still on the fence about whether to allow consumption establishments. The city’s main concern is where these “lounges” should be located. 

“We want to make sure that, while we’re setting the regulations in place that will allow for establishments, that we’re not being too onerous in terms of where those establishments are located,” says Jackson Mayor Derek Dobies.

The city of Bangor, about 100 miles west of Jackson, has not yet decided to opt in. The City Manager, Regina Hoover, says the city’s official stance is that it’s still waiting for the State of Michigan to establish more rules before deciding. However, since the medical marijuana industry has done so well in Bangor, it is very likely that recreational marijuana businesses will soon be included.

“I believe the city is leaning in a positive direction because we have moved forward with the medical, and that’s worked out very well. The Green Door [Dispensary] brings customers in from a 150 mile radius and that probably would not have happened had a lot of the different areas opted in, so it has been good for their business, definitely.”

Regina Hoover, Bangor City Manager

Hoover says what’s been good for Green Door has been good for Bangor, and there is the potential for even more growth with the possibility of recreational marijuana establishments within the city.

The city of Battle Creek has decided to allow recreational marijuana facilities, but there may be some delay before adult-use establishments begin to pop up. In order to apply for a recreational license on November 1st, a business must already have a state license for medical marijuana. If they do not hold a pre-existing medical marijuana license, they must wait two years before applying. The exception to this rule is an application for either a microbusiness, or a class A grower, which both may be submitted November 1st. 

Other cities, including Kalamazoo, have decided to draft a “delayed” opt-in ordinance. Kalamazoo is planning to opt in on June 1st, 2020. This gives the city a chance to “watch and wait,” seeing how recreational facilities affect the municipalities who have already opted in. Monitoring other municipalities, and seeing positive results, gives city council members some comfort and confidence when moving forward and influences the decision to opt in themselves.

Some cities have yet to hold a vote, and are waiting until the November election to decide whether to allow recreational marijuana facilities or not. South Haven, for example, has not made a decision and is awaiting November’s vote to discuss the ordinance.

Now that state-level recreational marijuana laws have been passed, and the MRA license acceptance date is growing closer, many people are wondering when we will begin seeing recreational marijuana facilities open. The first dispensaries are expected to open sometime in 2020, although there may be challenges along the way.