After marijuana legalization, the wait for retail sales is the national norm – MLive.com
It’s been nearly eight months since Michigan’s marijuana legalization law took effect and the first retail sales are still months away.
Michiganders will have to wait until at least November to know if they’ll be able to buy marijuana at a store in time for Christmas — or wait until after the New Year.
The gap between legalization and the start of retail sales in states starting their own recreational marijuana industries is the national norm, according to an MLive analysis.
That’s due to the fact that nearly every state that has legalized adult-use marijuana has done so through a ballot initiative that’s drafted by activists and citizens, said Matthew Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project, a national reform group that has financed legalization efforts in many states. Schweich was the campaign director and treasurer of the 2018 legalization campaign in Michigan.
“This is because initiative drafters usually err on the side of caution so that deadlines are achievable for state agencies,” Schweich said. “Also, initiatives are written up to two years before Election Day, which makes it difficult to predict how quickly they can be effectuated.”
The law Michigan voters approved gives state officials up to one year from the time the law took effect to implement a regulatory framework — or risk losing control to local cities, villages and townships.
In other states, the first retail sales typically occur about one year after marijuana legalization laws take effect as state government departments both have to create rules about everything from pesticides to security camera placement to packaging restrictions — and staff up — before processing license applications.
In Michigan, the timing of the first sale now depends on whether regulators allow medical marijuana plants and products to be transferred to the new recreational system, said Josh Hovey, spokesman for the Michigan Cannabis Industry Association.
State officials will start processing recreational marijuana business license applications Nov. 1, and anticipate some licenses could be issued that month. That doesn’t mean sales would start in November: if state regulators don’t budge, companies will have to start new crops of marijuana specifically for the recreational market — which would take months to mature.
Colorado and Washington paved the way as the first states to launch recreational marijuana markets.
Colorado’s implementation was slightly quicker than Washington’s, as officials adapted their existing medical marijuana regulatory framework to a new adult-use system. Voters in both states approved legalization ballot proposals in November 2012. The first legal sales occurred in Colorado on New Year’s Day 2014.
In Washington regulators had to start a licensing system from scratch, and weren’t able to issue the first licenses until they were several months in to 2014. The first retail sales occurred in July 2014.
In November 2016, California voters approved a legalization law, but couldn’t buy marijuana from a retail store until Jan. 1, 2018.
Maine and Massachusetts, which both had legalization ballot measures approved in November 2016, have been slower to implement a program. Massachusetts took a full two years to launch retail sales after that — partly because the state legislature delayed the implementation of the law in 2017, Schweich said.
Maine has not yet seen retail sales; officials there issued long-awaited rules for the adult-use industry this June.
Some states that followed Colorado and Washington — like Oregon in 2014 and Nevada in 2017 — were able to launch their programs quickly. Seven months after the law took effect in Nevada, retail sales were under way.
In Oregon, voters said yes to legalization in November 2014. The law took effect July 1, 2015 — and the first retail sales started three months later on Oct. 1, 2015. That’s due in part to a decision by state officials to allow existing state-licensed medical marijuana businesses to sell flower directly to adults over the age of 21 for recreational use as an interim measure to launch the market.
The one state that could buck the trend is Illinois: instead of a voter referendum, state lawmakers chose to legalize marijuana in June.
“A legislative approach allows for greater flexibility because the timeline for implementation is in the near future, as was the case in Illinois,” Schweich said.
Under the law, the first legal retail sales of recreational marijuana will be Jan. 1, 2020 — six months after Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the bill into law.
— Amy Biolchini is the marijuana beat reporter for MLive. Contact her with questions, tips or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more from MLive about medical and recreational marijuana.
This article originally appeared here in https://www.mlive.com/news/2019/08/after-marijuana-legalization-the-wait-for-retail-sales-is-the-national-norm.html