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Michigan wins big with recreational marijuana

Marijuana dispensaries expect big business for “cannabis holiday,” but the state is the biggest winner of all.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Cannabis dispensaries are expecting to do big business, as part of the April 20th (4-20) holiday. 

Across the board, Michigan is also reaping the benefits. Reports from the Cannabis Regulatory Agency show recreational cannabis sales in Michigan were more than $1.3 Billion in 2021, compared to about $985 Million in 2020. 

As a result, more than $42 million in recreational marijuana tax revenue was recently distributed to communities across the state. Those numbers have been on the rise, since Michigan voters approved recreational legalization in 2018. So will we keep seeing green? Or has the excitement already peaked?

“It's creeping up, and that's good for the municipalities that opted in for the adult use recreational on the retail side,” said Joe Jangda of Nature's ReLeaf. “Some of these municipalities are getting $1 million or more back, Grand Rapids being one of them, just to give back to projects that the funding is not there for.”

Jangda is the director of new business and product development for Nature's ReLeaf, a locally owned dispensary that recently opened a shop in Grand Rapids. He said it’s great to see the sales numbers climbing, but he doesn’t think it will last.

“Obviously they're going to plateau at some point, but it's still an infantile market,” Jangda said. “There's still a lot of growth to be had. I think this next year you're going to see some of it shake out a little bit.”

His company, which has two other locations in Michigan, is surrounded by communities that seem to be opposed to cannabis. But Jangda is trying to change that.

Credit: WZZM

“We're talking to a couple of other municipalities to educate them on what it could look like in their towns and cities, inviting them in to get a view of how we operate and what we look like,” he said. “I think it's different when you get to physically see it, especially if you've never been in a licensed cannabis retail location. I think some people watch too many movies, and they think it’s a drug house with people laying outside smoking. It's not that.”

He said his team is trying to help other municipalities understand exactly how things work, to try and alleviate any concerns.

“We are in business with the state of Michigan to start, and it's very controlled with how it's set up right now,” Jangda said. “Once we go into these new municipalities, we operate just like any other business.”

Dispensaries can be found in many parts of West Michigan, including Lowell, Grand Rapids, and Muskegon. Still, Jangda said other parts of the area have opted out, including Walker, Wyoming, Rockford, and Spring Lake.

“I'm hoping that this next year opens up some of the other municipalities that have kind of been sitting back and waiting to see how it looks, and I understand that. That's great. I think it's smart,” he said. “But hopefully some of them do opt in for this, so their residents can have safe access. Because there's a lot of neighboring communities here that have not yet. Just like any medicine, you want to have easy and safe access to it, and not have to drive 20, 30, 40 minutes to get to it.”

Jangda said another focus at Nature’s ReLeaf is helping new consumers who still have misconceptions about cannabis.

Credit: WZZM

“They’re concerned that they have to smoke it when, quite honestly, that's not necessary anymore,” he said. “Edible form, they're coming up with some really creative water soluble forms that make it even easier to consume, and it's very controlled now. So people can use cannabis but not get the cerebral effects, just by micro-dosing with it.”

Michigan is one of 37 states where cannabis can be legally prescribed as medication, and for good reason. The plant provides relief for a variety of ailments, without causing dependency issues.

“As a caregiver, that's pretty much what I was doing - helping people get off of prescriptions, opiates in particular,” Jangda said. “I still have people who reach out to me and thank me for allowing them to be a mother, grandmother, wife, all those things again, because they were in such a trance from the opiates, that it turned them into zombies.”

He said cannabis is also being used to help people minimize their use of alcohol, which continues to cause a multitude of problems in the US. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, an estimated 95,000 die from alcohol-related causes every year.

“Beyond that, all the shrapnel that it throws out to some of these families, as far as verbal abuse and physical abuse and other things that are documented. These are real problems,” Jangda said. “No one has ever died from over consumption of cannabis.”

But it’s not just the cannabis products that are having a positive impact. The cannabis companies are making conscious efforts to become important parts of their respective communities.

According to Jangda, Nature’s ReLeaf in Grand Rapids has partnered with local neighborhood organizations including West Grand and Steepletown. On Saturday, April 23rd, workers from the new dispensary will join other community members for a westside cleanup event.

“That's one of the things that drew me to Nature's ReLeaf,” Jangda said, “It's not lip service, they really do care about giving back to the community, not just fiscally, but with some sweat labor, being out there with all these neighbors here and really helping make this a better place all the time. I think it's important for all of us to do that.”

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