Marijuana is a billion dollar industry in Michigan, safety concerns loom

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Michigan reported more than $10 million in marijuana sales on April 20, 2021, an unofficial holiday for marijuana enthusiasts, and single-day sales were up nearly 200% from 2020.

Experts said the $1 billion industry showed no sign on slowing down in Michigan, which became the first state in the Midwest to start selling recreational marijuana in December 2019.

The marijuana industry poured millions of dollars into the state's economy over the last year and a half, creating revenue for the local municipalities that allow it.Record-high monthly marijuana sales revenues reached $97.6 million in March 2021, a 44% increase from $67 million in sales in February, according to data from the Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency.

An industry analysis, co-authored by Michigan State University professor William Knudson, showed the marijuana industry in Michigan had become a $1.2 billion business.

The economic impact analysis published in March 2020 projected the estimated level of retail sales, once it became widely available, would reach $3 billion with a total economic impact in excess of $7.8 billion.

"It's maturing faster than we thought," Knudson said.

Knudson said the marijuana industry in Michigan had the capability to expand at nearly twice the current rate.

"Judging by the experience in Colorado, we expect the marijuana industry, once it matures between 2023 and 2025, to be a $2 billion a year business," Knudson said.

Researchers said 10 % of marijuana sales in Michigan came from out-of-state residents. Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin, which boarder Michigan, don't have adult-use marijuana.

DRUGGED DRIVING WARNINGS

Before people could buy marijuana for recreational use in Michigan, local law enforcement warned that drugged drivers would increase dangers on the road.

A recent AAA study of 2,700 drivers nationwide reveals 37 % of respondents admitted to driving under the influence of marijuana.

"Some drivers think marijuana can make them a better driver, but research shows, it can inhibit concentration and close reaction times and cloud judgement," said Adrienne Woodard, AAA spokesperson.

Allegan County Sheriff Frank Baker said drugged-driving related crashes with property damage reached a new high.

"It's a noticeable trend that we're seeing more of that," Baker said.

Whether the record-breaking sales were leading to more drugged drivers, was still unclear. Michigan crime statistics don't track specific drugs tied to crashes involving drugged drivers.

"As we begin to provide better training to our officers to identify, recognize when somebody is under the influence of a drug like marijuana, we believe there's going to be more enforcement as well," Baker said.

A University of Michigan Health study tracking marijuana trends before the state legalized recreational use stated the percentage of deadly crashes involving marijuana increased even as the total rate of fatal crashes dropped.

Since the state legalized pot for adult-use, it's unclear if drivers under the influence of marijuana are causing more crashes.

Recreational marijuana had been legalized in 16 states and the District of Columbia and 15 state Legislatures considered medical or adult-use marijuana legalization bills in 2021.

Some Democrats in Congress have been pushing to legalize marijuana at the federal level by April 20, 2022. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced her support to legalize marijuana on the federal level.

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