Sunday marked Michigan's first legal sale of recreational marijuana in Ann Arbor.
Three dispensaries in the city are currently selling recreational marijuana, and more than 30 other businesses across Michigan have pending retail applications.
The Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) issued a decision allowing licensed marijuana facilities to transfer up to 50 percent of medical marijuana inventory, after 30 days, to recreational sales.
Robin Schneider, executive director of the Michigan Cannabis Industry Association, told The Center Square that decision might leave medical marijuana users without medicine.
Schneider said The Michigan Cannabis Industry Association (MCIA) remains opposed to the state’s decision to use “a very limited inventory” of medical marijuana to launch the adult-use recreational market.
Schneider said about 270,000 patients across Michigan rely on medical marijuana, who will pay higher prices and will face a decreased supply of marijuana.
The wholesale price per-pound increased immediately after the state announced licensed dispensaries could transfer part of their inventory, Schneider said, adding that one Detroit-based retailer who normally sells 25 pounds a week for medical sales was only able to source six pounds in the week after the announcement.
Schneider said recreational sales have depleted the inventory of medical marijuana provisioners across the state, including in Detroit and Lansing, where recreational businesses won’t open for a few more months.
“So just because we legalized recreational marijuana doesn’t mean that it’s not medicinal and we don’t take care of the patients first,” Schneider said.
The 2016 Michigan Medical Marijuana Licensing Act aimed to license cultivators to grow marijuana for the medical market, Schneider said, not for recreational sale.
Schneider said there’s currently only about 100,000 tagged plants in Michigan’s metric, the state’s seed-to-sale tracking system, which is 10 times under the production level needed to launch a “responsible” adult-use market.
“We’re hoping the state will recognize that a rush rollout of recreational sales, without building the infrastructure and supply necessary to sustain the market, has actually had very harmful consequences already,” Schneider said.
Schneider cited MCIA projections that the state will likely run out of product in about two weeks and called this “a false start” to Michigan's recreational sales.
Schneider said some of the limited supply of tested, safe medicine went to consumers from Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania, which doesn’t wholly benefit Michigan residents, medical marijuana patients, and medical-use facilities.
MRA Communications Manager David Harns told The Center Square the transfer provision protected the supply for medical marijuana users.
“We put in safety precautions to make sure [a medical marijuana shortage] wouldn’t happen by only allowing provisioning centers to transfer up to 50 percent of their medical product that has been on the shelves for at least 30 days,” Harns said.
Harns said the provision gives adults a legal avenue to purchase state-tested marijuana.
The transferred marijuana is “product that has not been purchased by patients, and rather than having it sit on the shelves, we’ve made it possible for those who want marijuana to be able to purchase it from state-licensed facilities that have put the product through testing, rather than the illicit market,” Harns said.
GreenStone Provisions, one of the three Ann Arbor dispensaries selling marijuana recreationally, has faced hour-long lines for the past two days.
Kareena Stephenm, a receptionist and budtender at GreenStone, told The Center Square she believes recreational marijuana sales will decrease the supply of medical marijuana, which is one reason they invite medical marijuana patients to the front of the line.
“[Medical patients] are our priority at the moment because medical patients have paid extra money for the medical marijuana card,” Stephenm said, adding that the Monday line was about a two-hour wait.
“It’s pretty long, but not compared to yesterday,” Stephenm said.
Michigan law allows state residents age 21 and over to possess up to 2.5 ounces and grow up to 12 plants.