South East Michigan has served as the first location in the Midwest to offer recreational cannabis this week. The first week closed out with around 1.6 million dollars in sales. The state of Michigan earned over 270,000 dollars in revenue. Customers set out from Indiana, Wisconsin, and further to enjoy their first legal purchases. While this is a landmark moment for the country, it hasn’t been without its hiccups.
Ever since Michigan restricted sales on untested cannabis, supply chain issues have plagued the state. Medical patients have been frustrated by flower shortages for months now. Of course, the recreational market would inherit this issue. A statewide ban on all vape products further compounded this issue.
Maggies Smith, a manager at GreenStone Provisions, told me “We could only scan for half of our inventory that we had for at least 30 days that then had to be approved on a holiday weekend. The state had off. We sent in product approvals and got a little bit approved. What we got approved was what we had.” It wasn’t Wednesday, December 4th until more of GreenStone’s product was approved by the state.
The Flower Shortage And The Vape Ban Defined The First Week Of Sales
When hearing recreational customers complain about the shortage, Smith said “what do you mean? There’s always been a flower shortage.” When asked what she thought about returning to the old policy of selling untested flower to customers that signed a waiver, Smith replied, “I think with rec people wouldn’t really care. Medical patients might be a little wary. We’ve had tested product and caregiver products before. Some people didn’t care, they’ve been smoking caregiver grown cannabis their whole life. Others were asking why it wasn’t tested. With rec, I don’t think it would be a problem at all. I don’t see it doing any harm unless there was a contaminated product going around.”
The inability to sell untested products and the vape ban made for an awkward environment. Many customers were complaining about access to both flower and vape, but these problems were unavoidable due to the opening of recreational sales being shifted up a month. Estimates by the industry predict that dispensaries missed out on 30-40% in sales due to the unavailability of vape.
The Launch Of Rec From The Supplier’s Perspective
“I feel that from a government point of view they missed a lot of business in the last few days over the vape ban”, Andrew Goldstein of Claw Concentrates commented to me before his products were reapproved for sales. “The whole point of rec is for the state of Michigan to make money. I think that it was poor timing.”
“I think there’s a lot of patients that are not able to access their medicine as there are 300 people in line for rec today at Exclusive, which is our home store. The people who want vapes and are turned away, I know for a fact that Greenstone, another store that we do business with, they just turned away the rest of their customers today because they ran out of flower. This event is having an immediate impact on the market. They ran out of flower yesterday as well,” Goldstein told Respect My Region on December 3rd.
Both of these stores are in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The Launch Of Recreational Cannabis As Seen Through GreenStone Provisions of Ann Arbor
GreenStone Provisions had been preparing for recreational sales for months. “We’ve been working towards this for a long time,” Smith explained. “So we were ready. We were waiting for the go. It was just time to buckle down. Get everything we’ve been talking about and thinking about into motion. Since we’ve opened, we’ve wanted to do rec, or always hoped we’d be able to do both medical and recreational.”
Despite regularly communicating with the state, GreenStone still found themselves short on supply. Every day they’ve been open their recreational cannabis sold out. Supply and demand is only part of the problem.
According to Smith, the overall attitude of customers has been one of excitement and gratitude. People have been waiting for decades for this opportunity. A six-hour wait time means nothing next to that. To be able to purchase legal cannabis is a dream for many. That’s why this event has attracted people from different time zones.
Still, over the last few days, GreenStone’s rating on Google fell from a 4.6 to a 4.3. GreenStone is not at fault. People are unfamiliar with how this industry works.
The Opening Of Rec From the Retailer’s Perspective
“There’s a lot that had to happen,” Smith told me. “People think all we had to do is move half our inventory over. But it’s not as simple as that. We had to divide that inventory, wait for it get approved, assign it different medical tags, assign those new tags recreational tags, and then relabel everything. It took a lot of time. Some people think we’re unorganized and unprepared, but no, we spent a full week putting in 12 hour days to make sure everything was ready. There’s a lot that goes into this that people don’t think about. Unless they work in an industry where they handle all the back end stuff, they don’t think about how much work it takes. “
No matter the state, the launch of a recreational cannabis market means long lines and supply shortages. Blaming the businesses is an entitled reaction. One reviewer whined about someone else selling their place in line. They blamed GreenStone for it happening. Meanwhile, GreenStone’s staff was busily providing service to customers. “We didn’t hire a security guard or anything like that,” Smith explained. “I don’t think any of us anticipated having a 5-hour wait with a line halfway down the block.”
How GreenStone Decides What to Sell
GreenStone has done a great job, or else they wouldn’t be one of the dispensaries offering adult-sales. To combat the issues with supply, which aren’t of their design, GreenStone put a 7 gram limit on recreational purchases.
“We’ll decide we want like 3 strains,” Smith explained. “Then we fill those jars. Once we sell out of that, we’re like okay, we’re sold out for the day. It’s because there’s such limited product today. If we stayed open for a whole day right now, it would be hard to say there’d be enough product for another day after that. As we get more product approved, we’re going to be able to stay open longer.”
Customers can still purchase concentrates and edibles, however.
How Has the Launch of Rec Affected Medical Patients?
None of this has negatively effected medical patients. GreenStone will not sell out of medical cannabis, and there’s practically no wait for medicinal users. This is because GreenStone has a separate budroom and line for recreational patients.
On opening day they used half of their medical budroom for sales, but this is no longer necessary. Now they have a separate room upstairs reserved for recreational sales. Downstairs is for medical patients, as it was before Sunday.
The Opening of Rec From the Consumer’s Perspective.
Many of those lined up on December 1st already had their medical cards. They wanted to buy cannabis for the sheer progress this developing industry represents. GreenStone distributed menus to customers while they were waiting in line so they could become familiar with their options.
“Lately there’s been a line a half-hour, sometimes even an hour before we’re open,” Smith said. “The first day was a little overwhelming, but once you get in the groove of it you figure it out.”
When describing who was coming in, Smith had this to say, “Some people do want cannabis medically for various things, but they couldn’t get a medical card, they didn’t want that kind of footprint, or they couldn’t afford it. So they’re coming in saying ‘I have a lot of back pain, what do you recommend?’ Or something similar. Some people only want to get high. It’s a mix.”
What To Expect In The Future And What To Ask For
If Michiganders made a desire for untested cannabis clear the state would consider it. Currently, such a demand is underrated. The philosophy is that a tested product is a trustworthy product, but people have been smoking caregiver grown cannabis for years. When patients could sign a waiver and purchase untested cannabis, there was no supply chain issue.
No one should be forced to buy something they’re not interested in, but industry insiders agree untested cannabis would work. Both Smith and Thompson think that caregivers could meet the recreational demand for cannabis. While medical patients may need to examine test results, recreational patients are much less likely to care.
Unless such a shift occurs, recreational cannabis in Michigan will face worse supply issues than the medical industry does. This is made worse by recreational sales being open to people out of state. Testing is crucial for medical use, but many recreational patients only want to get high. Hopefully, vape products will be available again by next Friday. If not, then it won’t be surprising to see the black market benefit from the launch of the recreational market as well. That’s what we want to avoid.