Marijuana industry continues to bloom during pandemic

Marijuana in MI

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — All sorts of businesses have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and the closures aimed at slowing the spread — even those deemed essential, including the marijuana industry.

Medical marijuana dispensary Pharmhouse Wellness, 831 Wealthy St. SW, was the second medical marijuana shop to open in Grand Rapids on March 19.

Five days later, nonessential businesses were closed. Pharmhouse had to immediately change its business model even as there was a rush marijuana providers to stock up.

“(Customers) weren’t really sure what was going to happen,” said Chris Silva, retail manager at Pharmhouse and a longtime marijuana legalization advocate.

He said business has been steady.

“I have to imagine that people who are home all day, that drives their consumption up a little bit,” he said.

Pharmhouse has been doing delivery for larger orders but most people have opted for curbside pickup after calling ahead or ordering online.

“What I’m hearing though is those people that are in business — whether growers, processors, retail people — are doing OK,” said Benham Wrigley, an attorney who specializes in the cannabis industry at his downtown Grand Rapids firm CannaLex Law.

He said that applies to both medical and recreational marijuana businesses.

In March, Grand Rapids put a six-month hold on accepting recreational licenses originally scheduled to begin Monday. City planner Kristen Turkelson told News 8 that Grand Rapids is still processing medical marijuana approvals but since nothing can be built, no more will open in the foreseeable future.

“They’ve (operating shops) got monopolies now because all their competitors cannot go out and build,” Wrigley said.

The people who got in early are reaping the benefits, which will last as long as the shutdown continues and for months after. Construction companies are going to likely be busy once they can operate again and that could push back some projects.

Some of those people who have half-built facilities, rent to pay and capital investors waiting for returns are getting nervous.

Prices are up, especially for those who do not have their own growing facilities. Those that do grow their own are doing fine, Wrigley said.

“They’re still growing and they’re still processing. It’s an agricultural situation and it was deemed an essential service,” he said.

The state is also allowing people to use expired medical cards that are less than 60 days past expiration.

Meanwhile, Silva is already seeing a bump in sales at Pharmhouse as taxpayer-funded federal stimulus checks hit bank accounts.

“I think people are definitely spending some of their Trump money in the dispensaries, for sure,” Silva said.

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