The promise of marijuana legalization was attractive to voters in November 2018: even in many parts of small-town Michigan, the proposal passed.
But that doesn’t mean rural Michigan is ready for a weed shop.
Now marijuana in Michigan is undergoing its second phase of legalization as every city, township and village is grappling with if — or where — they want the cannabis industry.
Of the 792 cities and townships that passed Proposal 1, 308 have ended up banning adult-use marijuana businesses so far, according to an analysis by MLive. That’s about 39 percent.
Map: Michigan communities that have banned adult-use marijuana businesses
Scroll over cities and townships to see how they voted on the marijuana legalization ballot question — Proposal 1 — in November 2018.
Bruce Barcott, deputy editor of the marijuana news and information website Leafly, called the phenomenon of local bans on cannabis businesses the “second phase of legalization.”
“Smaller municipalities tend to want the big cities to go first and offer them reassurance that the sky won’t fall, that crime rates won’t skyrocket, that teen access won’t go up,” Barcott said.
The trend repeats itself throughout states that have legalized marijuana for adult-use, Barcott said.
“California really has a problem with local bans, and it’s stifling the transition from the illicit market to the legal regulated market,” Barcott said. “They’re not seeing as much tax revenue as they had planned for because so many counties and towns have prohibited farmers and stores from opening up shop.”
Banning legal marijuana businesses in a community only allows the black market to thrive, Barcott said.
“You’re enabling and encouraging the illicit sale of cannabis,” Barcott said.
Emergency rules for the adult-use marijuana industry were released by state officials in July, giving Michigan’s local governments a matter of months to react. Communities without a ban on businesses in place by the time the state starts taking business license applications Nov. 1 risk losing control over how and where the industry operates in their towns.
Residents recently tried to overturn bans on marijuana businesses in two Michigan towns by collecting signatures and putting initiatives on the ballot. But in Highland Park, a city of 11,776 people in Wayne County, and in Vanderbilt, a village of 562 people in northern Michigan, the efforts failed at the polls.
Both communities had passed Proposal 1 in November 2018. The bans on marijuana businesses still stand.
Barcott said that’s partly due to the timing of elections. The big legalization proposals tend to be timed with large-turnout elections with presidential or gubernatorial races on the ballot, he said.
“The theory is that you get a wide and deep pools of voters in those legalization votes and then when the town votes on it, it tends to be in the very small turnout primary elections,” Barcott said. “Those are the hardcore city council-watching voters. They tend to be more conservative they tend to be older.”
— 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.