High demand, low supply could slow recreational marijuana in Michigan

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It’s a virtual certainty that marijuana for recreational purposes won’t be available at state-approved dispensaries until the first quarter of next year.

Michigan began taking applications Friday for a variety of licenses to grow, process, transport and sell marijuana or cannabis for adults who are 21 and older, but the end of November is the soonest any of those licenses could be approved, said David Harns, a spokesman for the state’s marijuana-licensing agency.

 

And that includes only those who already have been vetted by the state to grow, process, transport or sell medical marijuana, Harns said. It will take at least 60 to 90 days to complete background checks for those who have never gone through the application process.

But even if a dispensary were able to gain approval before the end of the year, they likely will not have cannabis that could be sold for recreational purposes because the state’s suppliers can barely keep up with the demand from the estimated 300,000 residents with a medical-use card.

“The director could have allowed the transfer of product for recreational purposes, but he doesn’t plan on doing it right away,” Harns said, referring to Andrew Brisbo, who oversees the state marijuana-regulatory agency. “It doesn’t make sense to potentially take it away from medical patients.”

While providing a tour of the dispensary he is working on at 1140 S. 11th St. in Niles, George Lynch, CEO of Green Stem, said the belief that adult-use marijuana might be available before the end of the year was unrealistic for anyone who has any knowledge of the emerging industry.

Though he has a provisional license, Lynch won’t be able to complete the process for a medical dispensary permit until he finishes his building, which is mandated to include a wide range of security provisions.

Delivery vehicles, for example, will pull into the structure, marijuana will be stored in a vault and products will be in locked cases — repurposed from the Sears store at the University Park Mall — during store hours.

Lynch hopes to have the 4,200-square-foot business open before the end of the year, but it will likely be March before the location is able to branch into adult-use marijuana.

“The shelves in the medical dispensaries aren’t even full,” Lynch said. “So it’s ridiculous to think there’s any supply out there for adult-use.”

Lynch, who relocated to Niles to start what he calls a family business rather than retiring, intends to take matters into his own hands by growing and processing marijuana in a secure space at the former Simplicity Pattern Co. plant on Wayne Street.

“We hope to have our first plants under grow lights by Feb. 1,” said Lynch, adding that some of the plants he plans to grow and process eventually could go to other provisioning centers in the state. “It takes about four months for the overall process — from planting to processing.”

Lynch said he’s also looking for a partner who would be interested in creating edible products that would likely be produced by a confectioner at the Simplicity plant.

 

Green Stem is located in the former Sparkle Quik Lube, but it will bear no resemblance to the auto business. Instead the new store will have a friendly urban modern design that Lynch envisions could be used for yoga and other classes when the store is closed.

“We’re trying to get this out of the shadows,” said Lynch, who prefers the use of the word cannabis rather than marijuana and gained a permit for medical use because of an inability to sleep.

“It helped me,” said Lynch. “We’re trying to create a boutique environment where people are comfortable coming and maybe finding something that can help them.”

Beyond the opening of Green Stem in the next couple of months, Berrien County already has Zen Leaf in Buchanan and the ReLeaf in Niles with more to come in both cities, as well as growing and processing centers.

Based on what’s happened in Colorado, Lynch believes that about 75% of his business eventually could be for adult use, rather than medical purposes.

Ric Huff, city administrator for Niles, said he has mixed feelings about the slight delay for recreational marijuana.

“From an economic development perspective, you want them to be successful,” said Huff, referring to the millions of dollars that are being invested in the community. “But from a municipal-legal standpoint, we’re kind of glad it’s dragging on.

“It’s moved fast for government.”

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