Green generating green: 1 year in, rec marijuana adds $73M to Michigan budget

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Tuesday, Dec. 1 marks the one year anniversary of legal sales of recreational marijuana in Michigan.

Looking at it strictly from a revenue-generating vehicle, it’s apparent that the voter-approved initiative has been a plus for the state — bringing in nearly $73 million in taxes.

According to the most recent available information, as provided by David Harns, interim communications director for Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, as of Nov. 22 recreational marijuana has added $72,911,352 to the state’s budget. The revenue comes from the 16.6 percent in excise and sales taxes collected on $439,225,017 in reported sales of cannabis at licensed stores.

For the most part, sales have been on the rise over the past 51 weeks; For Dec. 1 - 8 of last year — the first week for legal sales — $1,629,007 of cannabis was reported sold at licensed facilities compared to $13,539,302 in marijuana sales last week, Nov. 16-22.

A closer look at reported sales shows some notable hikes, such as the week of Aug. 31 - Sept. 6 having the highest number of reported sales, at $16,423,034, and a major jump in sales, week-to-week, happening in April. The week of April 6 - 12 saw reported sales of $4,799,920, but the following week, sales leapt to $7,230,657 — nearly a 51 percent increase. Some have attributed the spike to ordered lockdowns and self-quarantine due to Covid-19 concerns.

‘No real problems’

Jerry Millen, one of the owners of Greenhouse in Walled Lake, said the past year has been a good one. The store opened in early 2019 as the first in Oakland County to be licensed to sell medical marijuana and then got its license to sell recreational marijuana last January. Greenhouse continues to see strong sales and a steady flow of customers, both new and returning, with plenty of older adults seeking alternatives for pain relief or sleep aids, Millen said, rather than just for its euphoric effects.

Many who use cannabis therapeutically had held off getting a medical marijuana registration card because they “didn’t want to be on the list” with the State of Michigan, he said, and then welcomed the legalization of recreational marijuana so they could easily get the products they need and want.

Jerry Millen at the "express room" in Greenhouse, a marijuana store in Walled Lake. Orders made online are ready when customers arrive. Curbside pickup and in-store sales are also offered.

Aileen Wingblad/MediaNews Group

Millen also said cannabis products are used for relief from stress and anxiety, too — with some people ditching prescription medication in favor of marijuana.

"A lot of people originally thought recreational cannabis was just to get high," he said.

Since the place opened nearly two years ago, Millen said, “the sky hasn’t fallen, knock on wood. Greenhouse's shelves are stocked with "about 1,000 different items," including smokables, topicals, sprays and edibles, he noted, and offers a knowledgeable, no-pressure staff.

“We have had no real problems...and I credit that to how our store is run,” he said. “A lot of people thought the world would end if cannabis was legalized in Michigan, and they were wrong.”

Millen said Greenhouse is on target to generate a total of $150,000 in excise taxes alone for 2020. As stated in the ballot proposal approved by Michigan voters in 2018 to legalize adult-use marijuana, the excise tax is first to be used to fund implementation, administration and enforcement of marijuana regulation, and for at least two years provide $20 million a year to research on marijuana as treatment for U.S. veterans’ medical conditions and suicide prevention. The rest is dedicated to municipalities and counties that have marijuana stores or microbusinesses, K-12 education, and repair/maintenance of roads and bridges.

To date, there are 199 licensed marijuana retailers in Michigan.

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