Michigan Poised To Be 'Huge National Player' In Legal Cannabis, Says State's Top Regulator

The first recreational marijuana dispensaries opened in Michigan Dec. 1, and supply issues weren’t far behind. 

That was inevitable, Andrew Brisbo, the executive director of the state’s Marijuana Regulatory Agency, said Wednesday at Benzinga’s Detroit headquarters.

“Those supply concerns are not lost on us,” and are best addressed by proactively and efficiently issuing licenses, he said. 

Even after licenses are issued, it takes growers months after receiving a license to turn around a crop. 

“We wanted to rip the Band-Aid off and allow [the market] to start to move forward,” Brisbo said of the recreational launch, which occurred ahead of schedule. 

The state is allowing businesses to use some medical cannabis inventory for recreational sales to help alleviate tight supplies. 

'The Demand Is There' For Recreational Cannabis 

Last year, Michigan had 297,000 registered medical marijuana patients. That number has dipped to about 271,000, Brisbo said. 

Voters in the state approved a medical marijuana ballot question in 2008 and a recreational marijuana ballot question in 2018

It took two years to satisfy the demand from medical cardholders, Brisbo said. The state’s legal cannabis market grew overnight to as many as 3 million people with the launch of recreational sales, he said. 

“The demand is there. The demand already existed.”

Another challenge is the role of Michigan municipalities, many of which have taken a wait-and-see approach to recreational marijuana and opted out for the time being, Brisbo said. 

“I was frankly a little bit surprised that medical communities didn’t move into the adult use space.” 

Regulators are looking at states like Colorado to learn lessons from their experiences in developing medical and then recreational markets, Brisbo said. 

In order to compete with the black market, Michigan is taking a forward-looking approach to ideas such as social consumption, delivery services and temporary event licenses, he said. 

“We wanted to start out with a regulatory framework [that addresses] those services.” 

Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference Heads To Miami Beach, Detroit, Toronto 

Brisbo’s appearance is part of an ongoing series of Benzinga cannabis events attended by venture capitalists, investors and cannabis executives. 

The Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference heads to Miami Beach, Florida Feb. 24-25, followed by a conference March 20 in Detroit and June 1-2 in Toronto. 

“The biggest names to the smallest names are in those rooms,” said Benzinga CEO Jason Raznick. “The goal of our events is to connect people.” 

Brisbo said the macro view of Michigan’s marijuana market is positive. 

“Michigan is in a very good position to be a huge national player in this industry.” 

Related Links: 

A Snapshot Of America's Medical Marijuana Markets: Florida

Massachusetts Lifts Vaping Sales Ban, Montana To Enforce Moratorium In Latest State-By-State Developments

Andrew Brisbo, executive director of Michigan's Marijuana Regulatory Agency, speaks Wednesday at Benzinga headquarters in Detroit. Photo by Dustin Blitchok. 

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