Marijuana programs in the Midwest aren’t much of an improvement over those in the South. While Illinois and Michigan have both legalized adult use — and Ohio’s marijuana program looks set to follow — other Midwestern states remain restrictive.
The Midwest is divided fairly evenly between the restrictive states and the frontrunners, but even many of the latter have recently fallen into disarray. With much of the region currently inaccessible, the greatest potential for cannabis success in the Midwest is in Ohio.
Here’s what you need to know about the state of cannabis regulation in the Midwestern states and why the Ohio Marijuana Program might be your best option in this region.
Marijuana programs in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota don’t show much promise at the moment. However, they are worth keeping in mind should things change in the future.
Wisconsin and Iowa
Wisconsin and Iowa’s medical marijuana programs are extremely restrictive. For example, the Iowa program is not even entirely medical; rather, they call it a medical cannabidiol program, and it only allows a patient 4.5 grams of THC every 90 days.
Unfortunately, these programs, especially in Iowa, are also very racially disproportionate. According to American Civil Liberties Union, Black people are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis-related crimes than white people.
Minnesota has been a medical-only state since its first sale of medical marijuana in 2015. Since then, there has been little to no movement on adult use until May of this year, when the Minnesota House of Representatives voted to legalize cannabis.
However, the regular session was not adjourned until two days later, stalling the Senate bill in committee. Legislation is unlikely to take over the bill until at least the second half of 2022, but Minnesota is taking steps to improve its restrictive medical marijuana program by increasing its nine qualifying conditions at 17.
If you want to enter the Minnesota market, the best thing to do is join local advocacy groups in their efforts to push for more reform. In the meantime, it may be worth considering the less restrictive marijuana markets of Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio.
Marijuana programs in Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio were at the forefront of legalization in the Midwest. While some issues and delays have since surfaced, opportunities remain, especially in Ohio.
In Illinois, adult use sales began in January 2020, shortly after adult use was legalized. But what seemed like a promising start turned into an absolute nightmare with delays, lawsuits and scandals.
We advise you to stay out of Illinois until the state can fend for itself and instead focus on the marijuana markets of Michigan and Ohio.
Michigan is legalized for medical and adult use. If overall the state itself is not very competitive, it may depend on the region. Detroit, for example, took years to launch its adult-oriented program, but it’s now a highly competitive market.
Michigan is a generally accessible state, but leaves much of the regulation and restrictions to the municipalities. While the state has set certain limits on the total number of cultures or dispensaries allocated, local levels set their own limits within their municipalities.
If you are looking to get started in Michigan, make sure you meet the requirements of the municipality first, as these will be more difficult to meet than the state requirements. It’s best to start with a list of areas you don’t want to operate in, then see which of the remaining counties have municipal requirements you can viably meet.
Your installation must be ready for inspection within 60 days to submit your second application, so you will need to be strategic in determining real estate and municipal boundaries in advance. Also be open to considering areas of Michigan that might not seem ideal, as they may have more licenses available to you.
Ohio’s marijuana program is currently medical-only, but they recently opened another round for dispensaries and will be awarding 130 licenses based on a lottery system. The licenses will be extremely difficult to earn, and if you haven’t prepared everything already, you probably won’t have enough time to enter this round.
However, Ohio may legalize adult use in 2022. Lawmakers have been pushing for it, and they’ve been authorized to collect signatures and possibly pass a bill.
Two major fears preventing people from joining Ohio’s medical marijuana program could help push through the legalization of adult use, as these concerns would then become moot:
- Taking medical marijuana — even for legitimate reasons — could cause some people to lose access to their other medications.
- In Ohio, it is illegal to possess both a gun and a medical marijuana card.
If you want to enter the marijuana market in Ohio, be sure to follow updates on signature collection and get involved by helping collect signatures yourself.
Ohio Marijuana Programs: The Midwest Access Point
Despite some promising beginnings, the Midwest as a whole is fairly unreachable, with potential Ohio marijuana programs as the only ray of hope. But if other states can pull themselves together, the Midwest could be a huge market for cannabusiness.
If you want to break into the marijuana market in Ohio or other Midwestern states, contact the CHY for a feasibility study to explore your best options.
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