At midnight on Nov. 1, 2019, the application for recreational marijuana licenses opened to Michigan businesses across the state. The Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency, part of the Michigan State Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, began accepting these applications as part of their efforts to implement new regulatory framework for recreational use in the industry.
Ann Arbor’s own Exclusive Brands, currently an operational medical marijuana facility, was the first business to apply for the licence. Narmin Jarrous, executive vice president of business development at Exclusive Brands, explained they were well prepared to capitalize on the opportunity.
“We had a pre-qualification approval before we woke up on Friday morning, we submitted our pre-qualification application at 12:17 a.m., and we were the first approval later that morning,” Jarrous said.
Omar Hishmeh, owner of Exclusive Brands, said he and his company prioritize being first to implement new developments in the industry.
“It’s always been a priority of ours to be the first at about anything in the industry,” Hishmeh said. “Anytime any new emergency rules or anything comes out, we adapt to them; any new opportunities, we actively start to pursue them as soon as possible. Basically, just staying on top of everything we can to remain a leading company in the marketplace here in Michigan.”
Exclusive Brands has its flagship location in Ann Arbor and currently services patients with a diverse array of medical marijuana products. Jarrous explained the current scope of the business and their approach to managing production locally.
“Exclusive Brands is currently operational as a medical marijuana facility, so we were one of the first vertically integrated marijuana facilities in the state, so we have a grow, process and provisioning center in Ann Arbor,” Jarrous said. “So, we kind of do everything in house.”
Businesses with recreational marijuana licenses will be able to tap into a whole new market of users. Jarrous explained the potential impact recreational licensing could have on the accessibility of the drug.
“One of the biggest criticisms of the industry is that it’s been inaccessible to people for a really long time, and it’s easier to get clean tested marijuana if you’re wealthy, or if you’re better connected, or if you’re living in certain areas, and for a long time it’s been really unfair,” Jarrous said.
Laurence Horowitz, a senior kinesiology student and president of Green Wolverine — an organization for students interested in business and dedicated to educating people about cannabis and the marijuana industry — discussed the potential effects of licensing on recreational usage.
“I don’t think usage of the drug will increase or decrease with regards to the opening of these dispensaries for recreational use. It’s just going to be a matter of where the people who do use it go to get it,” Horowitz said.
Horowitz said he believes the availability of legal recreational marijuana will affect product quality and consumer reception.
“I think with regards to price, accessibility and stigma that’s going to be very good for the consumer. People are going to be very happy about that,” Horowitz said. “With regards to quality, I don’t know how happy you’re going to see consumers, just because you’ve seen the quality of cannabis really dip in states that have recreational versus medical.”
Jarrous also explained the process of working with local and state government to abide by regulations, and the expectations of the city, as well as the impact local culture has had on their business development.
“We work with the local government to make sure that everything we’re doing has the most minimal impact on the residents of Ann Arbor, on the people surrounding us,” Jarrous said. “I think having such an open community and people who have been so accepting of it really catapulted us — really helped us out a lot.”
Jarrous explained that since the original applications were cleared by the Marijuana Regulatory Agency within 24 hours of submission, they are waiting to begin the facility inspection phase of the licensing process.
“We’re just eagerly waiting for them to come out and do their inspection, and then, theoretically, we can be awarded our license right after that, and, if everything goes smoothly, we’re supposed to be able to start selling on January 1,” Jarrous said.
Hishmeh reiterated their excitement to not only be part of a new industry in Michigan, but a movement as well.
“We have the same vision that we’ve had since the beginning, and we’re just very excited to be here in the Michigan market and actively involved in part of the movement,” he said.