On first day of Michigan recreational marijuana sales, customers line up for flower

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Image of customers lined up outside Exclusive Brands in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Customers line up outside Exclusive Brands in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on Dec. 1, 2019. (Photo courtesy of Exclusive Brands)

The line outside the Exclusive Brands dispensary in Ann Arbor, Michigan, stretched nearly three blocks on the state’s first day of recreational cannabis sales Sunday.

As a light rain fell, the store’s employees passed out pizza, cookies, donuts and coffee to customers who had lined up to purchase adult-use marijuana products.

Exclusive Brands owner Omar Hishmeh said the store served more than 900 people on the first day. Most were there to purchase flower.

However, Hishmeh noted that Exclusive Brands also sold more gummies on Sunday than it typically sells in a month to the store’s medical cannabis customers.

“It was so exciting and there was so much adrenaline and no one was concerned about the wait,” Hishmeh added.

When the store closed at 9 p.m. Sunday, the roughly 250 people who were turned away received a golden ticket voucher that allowed them to cut to the front of the line on Monday and receive a discount on the products they purchased.

Hishmeh said he received about 15 phone calls Monday morning from people asking if they would still be able to get flower when they arrived at the store. A line to the door already extended around the block by 8:30 a.m.

“We knew we would have enough inventory for a couple of days,” Hishmeh said. “We’re very fortunate to be vertically integrated. We don’t anticipate running out of flower this week.

“We have harvests that are drying from our commercial grow.”

In addition to Exclusive Brands, two other adult-use marijuana shops opened in Ann Arbor: Arbors Wellness and Greenstone Provisions.

Sales totaled $221,000 among the three stores, said David Harns, public information office for the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

“It appears everything is fine today,” Harns said Monday. “There are long lines, but the demand is there for sure.”

Looking ahead, recreational marijuana sales are projected to range from $1.4 billion to $1.7 billion a year when the market reaches maturity, according to Marijuana Business Daily.

Rick Thompson, owner of the Flint-based cannabis education firm Michigan Cannabis Business Development Group, said he drove to Ann Arbor in white-out conditions to witness the historic day.

“The consumer demand was off the charts,” said Thompson, who also serves on the Michigan NORML board.

“Each of the provisioning centers had lines out the door and around the block. Most had police officers on hand to ensure people were safe from traffic.”

Thompson, who purchased five Forbidden Jelly joints at Arbors Wellness, was second in line behind John Sinclair and Ryan Basore, who both had been incarcerated for marijuana possession and together made the store’s first adult-use purchase.

The only disappointment, Thompson said, was that more recreational stores were not open to people across the state.

Michigan bumped up the adult-use launch date from Jan. 1 to Dec. 1 to curtail illicit sales, but more than 1,400 of the state’s 1,773 cities, villages and townships have barred recreational marijuana businesses.

Detroit, the city with the most medical marijuana dispensaries, has delayed recreational sales until at least Jan. 31.

Medical marijuana operators in Michigan were allowed to transfer up to half their inventory to equivalent adult-use facilities before the launch of recreational sales.

They were allowed to transfer only products they’d had in inventory for at least 30 days.

Medical marijuana flower is in short supply in the state, and – possibly as a result – the number of registered MMJ patients has declined from a peak of 297,515 in late 2018 to 276,253 as of Nov. 1.

Margaret Jackson can be reached at margaretj@mjbizdaily.com