Following Sunday’s opening of six dispensaries officially selling recreational marijuana in Michigan, three of which are based in Ann Arbor, students are considering the impact of this new legislation in a historically cannabis-friendly city.

The commencement of recreational sale comes a year after Michigan passed Proposal 1, allowing adults over the age of 21 to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. Under the proposal, recreational sales of marijuana are subject to a 10 percent excise tax in addition to Michigan’s six-percent sales tax. 

Students like LSA senior Luke Gaines feel this new supply of recreational marijuana won’t change life on campus much since the University must still abide by federal laws regarding the possession, use and distribution of marijuana. He likened the restraints on its usage to those placed on alcohol use on campus. One of the greatest positives, he believes, is a generally safer use of the drug. 

“I think weed is healthier than alcohol — period — but also, now it’s regulated; people aren’t worried about it being laced with anything,” Gaines said. “I think it will be safer overall. I think people like to know where they’re getting it from and will like to know that it’s safe and regulated by the government, as opposed to needing to buy it from whomever.”

Exclusive Brands — one of the three businesses selling the drug in Ann Arbor — was the first to apply for a recreational marijuana license upon its availability on Nov. 1. The operational marijuana facility prepared before Proposal 1 was passed, anticipating the eventual outcome. Narmin Jarrous, executive vice president of business development, explained Exclusive Brands used the general template for approval of a medical facility to apply for recreational sale. 

“We knew recreational marijuana would eventually be approved, so we always had that kind of in our sights,” Jarrous said. “Once it got approved, we went into overdrive. We used the medical facility application as a guide and kind of guessed our way through to figure out what we’d anticipate on the application. It was really a year-long process.” 

The process involved working with city officials, local businesses and the Ann Arbor community. According to Jarrous, all players have been very receptive to working with Exclusive Brands and other businesses. 

“The city made sure everything was in regulation, and we worked closely with them to understand the city’s rules and city’s regulations and their concerns,” Jarrous said. “And then we tied that into our application, and we made sure that everything from our building, to the traffic flow, to our hours of operation, were in regulation with the city and convenient for the businesses around us. We only want to have a positive impact on this community, and I think we’re doing a pretty good job at it, and we’re hoping that it only grows.”

LJ Horowitz, Kinesiology senior, is  president of Green Wolverine, a student organization that educates students on the medicinal advantages of cannabis, discussed the growth of the cannabis industry and current policies revolving cannabis. While he believes Ann Arbor is one of the best places in the world to use cannabis, he expressed concern with the rollout of recreational marijuana in regards to possible shortages. This, he said, was one of the topics of the Michigan Cannabis Leaders Summit, which took place last week.

“We already had a weak harvest in Michigan, and then with the adult use, that is surely going to run out very quickly,” Horowitz said. “Just because there’s no limit on how much you can really purchase, and there’s only really three stores in the Ann Arbor area. It’s going to be a real supply issue pretty soon, and you’re going to see the prices sky-rocket probably after the new year. In which case they probably won’t come down again until the summer. At least that’s the prediction.”

He emphasized while recreational purchase is a step in the right direction, there will need to be a consistent effort to ensure a stable supply for medical patients. He also emphasized the importance of setting a good example model for other states on the path to legalizing recreational marijuana.  

“With regards to recreation, I don’t want it to seem like I have a negative viewpoint on it because of this price raise, I think it’s great; it’s going to be really great for the city and state,” Horowitz said. “It’s more so that they really need to figure out the supply chain and make sure that that’s 100 percent safe and equitable for the medical community as well as equitable for the recreational community. Just because right now it’s being rolled out really inefficiently.” 

Jarrous said Exclusive Brands is receptive to these concerns and will always prioritize its medical patients first. 

“Our number one priority, we’ve said this time and time again, is always going to be to our patients,” Jarrous said. “Above the recreational entry, above the recreational users, who we love and appreciate, we’re dedicated to the patients who use this as medicine and need this to live comfortable lives.”

Students such as Public Health senior Sydni Warner have mixed feelings on recreational sales. While dispensaries will produce a higher quality product, Warner wonders if this increased access could extend possible underage purchase of marijuana with fake IDs. 

She also emphasized the need for currently incarcerated individuals under marijuana charges to be considered for early release, especially where Black people are much more likely to be arrested. 

“Often those in jail for these charges are Black men, an already historically marginalized community when it comes to drugs and crime,” Warner said. “While I recognize that at the time of conviction they had committed a crime, I believe that the time they have faced up until now should be ample time to serve for a crime that is no longer illegal.”

Warner, an Ypsilanti resident, believes that legalization could widen racial socio-economic gaps between Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, as well as other Michigan areas. 

“Gentrified areas such as particular regions in Detroit are projected to have a large number of dispensaries in the next coming year, most of which is owned by whites,” Warner said. “This to me shows that white owners are taking advantage of a system that was previously, and still in most places, used to reprimand and discriminate against poor, low socioeconomic status Black men. I just simply think it’s unfair to have large percentages of young Black men sitting in jail, while companies like Kushy Punch can make millions of dollars off of the same product.” 

Warner also recognized the new legislation has benefits and drawbacks, of which community members must be cognizant. 

“It’s a double-edged sword,” Warner said. “As a young public health upcoming professional, I think it is a step in the right direction as far as health is concerned. But socially, my experiences as a Black woman have made me concerned for my neighbors, community and loved ones.”

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