This past election cycle saw three cities in Michigan and one in Maine vote to decriminalize marijuana possession.
These laws are often seen as purely symbolic from a business perspective, as they don’t actually legalize the sale of the drug. But city-level decriminalization in states that have already approved medical cannabis can have a big impact on existing dispensaries and other MMJ businesses.
Local patients realize they can possess larger amounts of cannabis without fear of being arrested, leading to higher sales for dispensaries, consultants say. Municipalities with decriminalized laws also can attract patients from other cities.
Additionally, more patients eventually purchase in sizes at the legal limit, instead of in smaller amounts, which puts pressure on dispensaries to carry popular strains in higher volumes.
“It has a huge impact,” said Bob Calkin, president of the Cannabis Career Institute. “You have to really adjust your price points if you’re going to attract people to buy in that one- or two-ounce level, so you should create some type of incentive plan to purchase at that amount.”
In the Nov. 5 elections, Lansing, Ferndale and Jackson, Michigan, as well as Portland, Maine, voted to decriminalize marijuana possession. The Michigan cities will allow possession of up to 1 ounce while on private property, while Portland allows up to 2.5 ounces for people 21 years or older.
Calkin said dispensaries in cities with decrim laws should increase their offerings of cannabis products in general, such as edibles or infused products. “You have to find more ways to make money off of the plant,” he said.
Not all marijuana professionals, however, say they’ve seen an increase after decriminalization. Richard Krause, owner of Michigan Compassion in Flint, said his dispensary did not see a huge uptick after Flint allowed 1 ounce of possession on private property last fall.
In fact, decriminalization could have the opposite effect.
“It might be dissuading people from getting a [medical] card because they are thinking it’s going to become legal,” Krause said, “when it won’t.”