'I've Been Waiting My Whole Life For This': Michiganders Line Up To Buy Recreational Pot

WWJ News
December 02, 2019 - 4:29 pm

ANN ARBOR (WWJ) - Long lines persist one day after the first recreational marijuana sales began in Michigan.

After waiting in the cold outside GreenStone Provisions — one of only three Ann Arbor shops as yet authorized to sell the products — Steve from Pontiac made his first legal pot purchase.

"I think it's pretty awesome, I've been telling my wife," he told WWJ's Jon Hewett. "I just told her on the way up here that I've been waiting my whole life for this. Since I remember the Hash Bash when I was 13, 14 years old...I think it's about time."

"I think it's less harmful then alcohol. I actually quit drinking five years ago."

In the first stage of recreational marijuana retail sales in the state, Michigan Regulatory Agency is allowing select medical pot retailers — so far only the three businesses in Ann Arbor — to relabel up to 50% of their medical marijuana inventory for recreational sales. 

According to the MMRA around $221,000 (before taxes) worth of recreational marijuana was sold on Sunday, bringing in more than $36,000 in combined excise and sales taxes, according to spokesman David Harn. 

While waits or four or five hours were reported Sunday, Patrick from Ann Arbor says he waited about an hour on Monday to buy; something he thought would never happen in his lifetime.

"It's been a stigma that I've had to deal with; using it illegally and feeling like somewhat of a criminal or something — and I didn't understand that." 

Jill from Traverse City, who's been a medical marijuana patient for years, said she now feels like she can come out of the closet.

And while she's glad of that, she has some concerns: "What did disappoint me when I went in there was most of the product that I usually see for the medical (users) was gone; there was very little left," she said. "...So I'm afraid the medical patients are going to suffer."

Since December 6, 2018, it has been legal for Michigan residents and visitors to have up to 2.5 ounces (71 grams) of marijuana on them and up to 10 ounces (284 grams) at home, but stores have not yet opened as regulators continue to work on licensing. The sales will be taxed, 10 percent on top of the six percent sales tax, with the tax dollars going to schools, roads and cities where the sales take place.

At Arbors Wellness, Al Moroz said they're expecting crowds all week.

"If there is a shortage of product, it might inhibit the crowds from forming, but we imagine as long as we still have products to sell there's gonna be lines for the foreseeable future," Moroz said. 

More than 1,400 Michigan communities have said no to allowing marijuana businesses in their towns, while fewer than 30 have officially approved ordinances to allow the businesses. Detroit, which has more than 40 licensed medical marijuana dispensaries, is still working on an ordinance to govern recreational businesses within the city.

Overall a couple of dozen licensed pot shops are expected to be selling recreational marijuana by early 2020. 

Once the ball gets rolling, state budget forecasters expect Michigan's recreational marijuana market to generate up to $1.5 billion annually by 2022. 

The first in the Midwest, Michigan is the tenth state in the U.S. to legally sell recreational pot. 

Users should note that it remains illegal to use marijuana in a public place or to drive under the influence.