Michigan Begins Recreational Weed Sales

Michigan, the 10th US state to legalize recreational marijuana, has opened its first three weed dispensaries.

On November 28th, Michigan officially began the recreational sale of marijuana to adults over the age of 21.

Three retailers have currently opened up shop; Exclusive Brands, Greenstone Provisions and Arbor Wellness, who began sales on Sunday the 1st of December.

"We're not really sure what to expect. It's an unprecedented event, "people have been calling to see if they can make reservations," said Maggie Smith, manager of Greenstone.

The commencement of sales comes over a year since Michigan legalized cannabis for recreational use on November 6, 2018. At the time, voters approved the proposal by a 56–44 margin, making Michigan the 10th state to legalize recreational cannabis.

To date, Michigan officials have issued 18 licenses, as well as allowing stores to transfer some of their medical marijuana to their recreational stores. This may prove to be a wise move given Canada's rocky rollout of recreational bud. As a result of the allowance, some retailers have shifted up to 50% of their medicinal marijuana supplies to their recreational stores.

The Vaping Ban

Though the legalization of recreational marijuana sales immediately follows a temporary ban placed on the sale of marijuana vapes, due to the ongoing vaping crisis.

So far, nearly 2,300 people have been confirmed to be suffering lung illnesses due to vaporizer use, including 47 deaths with at least two people in Michigan that have died from a vaping-related injury.

The illnesses and deaths are believed to be largely due to Vitamin E acetate, a harmful additive that has been found in many vapes. As a result, Michigan officials have also required that a portion of cannabis vapes in the state be retested for Vitamin E. Once the vapes have been tested, officials say the ban will likely be lifted.

Though critics of the ban have stated that the dangerous additive has only been found on vaporizers purchased on the black market and that the ban will place an extra strain on cannabis retailers.

One such critic is Denise Pollicella, an attorney who has served a number of cannabis clients, who said "I don't disagree that the state felt like it needed to take some sort of safety precaution to make sure the public is comfortable with vaping products, but I don't think there have been any instances of any licensed products causing illness."

"It's a bit of an extreme measure. Ceasing the sale of everything already in the stores is going to be pretty devastating to an industry that's not self sustaining yet."

Pollicella's sentiments are echoed by cannabis retailer Stuart Carter, owner of a marijuana dispensary in Detroit who said that the ban will seriously stifle his sales.

"It's 30% of my business," he said. "So a customer will come in looking for a vape pen and we don't have it, so they'll buy flower and there's a massive shortage already of flower."

"This is a knee-jerk reaction by the state because most of the THC issues are from the black market, not by the tested market."

Expunging Cannabis Records In Illinois

In an attempt to address the impacts of the War on Drugs, particularly upon minorities, Illinois included criminal justice reforms in its marijuana legalization bill.

The 610-page bill is believed to expunge the records of 770,000 residents of the state with marijuana-related offenses on their criminal records.

For those whose record shows possession of 30 grams or less of weed, their records will be automatically expunged by the Illinois State Police, though the time police take to expunge the records will differ.

If the arrest was within the past 6 years, the individual's record will be cleared by January 1st, 2021. If the arrest is between 2000- 2013, the record will be cleared by January 1st, 2023. Lastly, if the arrest is prior to 2000, the record will be cleared by January 1st, 2025.

Officials state that the time estimates are quite generous and should be done well before 2025, with those affected notified by mail or e-mail.

Residents whose convictions were for amounts between 30 and 500 grams won't receive automatic clemency, and will instead need to individually petition the court.

On top of expunging records, the bill attempts to go a step further in addressing the disproportionate effects that the War on Drugs has had on minorities, by introducing a "social equity" component which aims to encourage and incentivize minorities to apply for business licenses.

"The most historic aspect of this is not just that it legalizes cannabis for adults but rather the extraordinary efforts it takes to reduce the harm caused by the failed war on marijuana and the communities it hurt the most," said state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, who co-sponsored the bill.

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Louis O'Neill
Louis O'Neill

Louis is a writer based in Sydney with a focus on social and political issues. Having interviewed local politicians and entrepreneurs, Louis now focuses on cannabis culture, legislation & reform.

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