GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It has been nine months since Michigan voters said yes to recreational marijuana use in our state.
So, when will you be able to walk down to the corner market and pick up a bud?
“We’re going to start taking applications Nov. 1. We expect probably to have licenses issued to those who have already been licensed on the medical side in the month of November,” Andrew Brisbo said.
Brisbo could be considered the state’s rule cannabis director or the gonga guru of the Mitten.
But the sign on Brisbo’s office door is a little more formal. He’s the executive director of the Marijuana Regulator Agency.
Brisbo was in Grand Rapids, speaking to the Michigan Association of Broadcasters Summer Advocacy Conference.
Voters approved the use of recreational marijuana in November 2018.
The law gave the state a year to figure out rules, regulations and the application process to allow businesses to get in the game.
Brisbo says it’s been a challenge to come up with ways to regulate something that used to be illegal.
While more and more states are allowing recreational marijuana, there aren’t many past lessons to rely on.
“We can look at what other states have done when we set up Michigan’s program. But other states are dealing with it as a brand-new issue as well,” Brisbo said.
And it’s not just developing the regulatory process at the state level.
Other issues include where marijuana-related businesses can put their earnings.
The feds still consider marijuana an illegal drug.
Therefore, banks and other financial institutions providing banking services to marijuana businesses could be considered as engaging in money laundering.
Federal regulators have given some guidance to financial institutions on how they can engage with the industry.
“There’s certainly a higher level of due diligence. A higher level of oversight,” Brisbo said. “So we’re partnering with the banks to help them get the information that’s needed so that they can meet that threshold and do it in a way that is ok with the federal government.”
Brisbo’s agency has also created a social equity program.
It is designed to encourage participation in the marijuana industry by people who live in 19 Michigan communities disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition and enforcement.
In West Michigan, those communities include Kalamazoo, Muskegon, Muskegon Heights, Benton Harbor, Niles and Albion.
Michigan is the country’s second-biggest medical marijuana market in the country, behind California.
“Being the first state in the Midwest to have legalized adult use, we expect it to be a tourist destination,” Brisbo said.