Michigan has become the first state, not on the west or east coast, to have legalized adult marijuana use. This a huge milestone for the Midwest, but also for the future of America. Here’s why: America’s coast and Midwest might as well be two different countries in regards to public opinion. However, adult use of Marijuana legalization in Michigan signifies a dramatic shift in public opinion—quickly going from prohibition to attracting mainstream bipartisan support. This a sign that political parties can put aside their differences for the sake of common good and economic opportunity.
Brief History of Michigan’s Marijuana Laws
Michigan has gone through a few transitions to earn its legalization today. Before Medical legalization in 2008, Michigan was a rough place for those involved with cannabis. Possession of any amount of cannabis was punishable by up to one year in prison and $2,000 fine. Much worse, if found selling or cultivating cannabis, this was considered a felony punishable with up to 15 years in prison. So, yeah, Michigan was not a friendly place for cannabis.
While cannabis was on the fringe in most parts of the state, college town of Ann Arbor was at the forefront of decriminalizing and legalizing cannabis within their city. In 1974, they made possession of small amounts of cannabis a small infraction. And in 2004, city council approved a referendum on the use of medical marijuana. All said and done, in 2008, Michigan established a medical cannabis initiative that was aimed to help the terminally ill—proposal 1 passed with 63% of voters. That brings us to 2018 when last month Michigan voted to legalize recreational marijuana, setting a precedent for Midwestern states.
In the short timeframe of 10 years, Michigan has drastically shifted their public opinion on marijuana. Let’s explore what has made this shift possible.
Michigan’s Dramatic Shift in Public
Opinion on Cannabis
Before 2008, marijuana usage in Michigan was a taboo act with high legal risks. Thus, the high legal risks only fed into the negative stigma around marijuana—something only drug addicts or criminals would deal with. But with medical legalization, the view on cannabis has shifted to a more positive one—that marijuana has health benefits and has little social risks.
The conversation around medical cannabis began with a project to help the terminally ill, who benefited greatly from the therapeutic properties of marijuana. And in the 80’s and ’90s activist were growing marijuana to help patients involved with the aids epidemic. Over time, stories of cannabis being able to help patients had spread and, till this day, the stories continue to spread changing peoples’ perception of cannabis and empowering its legalization in Michigan.
Furthermore, bipartisan support has been possible for the simple fact that the fears of the opposition have not been realized. In states where cannabis is legal, neither youth marijuana usage nor DUI rate has increased.
What Legalization Means for Michigan’s Economic Growth
While farmland and Walmarts may come to mind when you think of the Midwest, what should really come to mind is cannabis. Lots of it and lots of people using it. In fact, Michigan has the second biggest cannabis population after California. In 2014, over 1 million people were recorded to have used marijuana (15.6% of the population) in Michigan. While California had over 4 million residents that said they smoked marijuana in 2016 (14.9% of the population). With all these people using cannabis this means lots of cannabis-related sales.
> Pct. using marijuana in past year (2013-2014): 14.9%
> Total users: 4,633,000
> Pct. using marijuana in past year (2013-2014): 15.6%
> Total users: 1,304,000
Michigan’s medical marijuana market, to say the least, has been bringing in the dough. There are 12 states that offer marijuana for medical use—New York, Hawaii, Arizona—to name a few. Surprisingly, Michigan’s gross medical marijuana revenue far surpasses any one of these states. Since 2008, Michigan has recorded $633 million dollars of cannabis sales—coming in first right before Arizona which grosses $406.7 million. Thus, the potential revenue growth that will be generated through recreational legalization is an entirely different beast.
Michigan is the 10th state to have a full-fledged cannabis program. Exciting enough is the potential revenue that this can bring. Marijuana Business Daily projects Michigan’s recreational cannabis market will generate $1.4 billion to $1.7 billion within several years of launching. This will make Michigan one of the largest cannabis markets in the nation.
Future of Legalization in America
With Michigan taking the lead, it’s possible that other Midwestern states will follow including Illinois, Ohio, and Missouri. Bipartisan support for legalization will only continue to grow as more red states get on board. A data analysis study shows that if marijuana was legal in all 50 states, this would create a combined federal tax revenue of $131.8 billion between 2017 and 2025. If anything, the potential that recreational legalization brings to America is, indeed, a brighter economic future.