Nearly a year after Michigan voters approved legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use, the state is getting ready to hand out the business licenses that will usher in the beginning of retail sales.

But don’t pull out your cash just yet. Sales of marijuana for adult recreational use probably won’t begin until March or April of next year. That’s because the state is worried about a shortage of pot for medical marijuana users, and the first harvests for the recreational market won’t be ready until next spring.

And the state hasn’t decided yet whether it will allow medical marijuana growers, processors and dispensary owners to transfer existing medical marijuana flower and infused products to the recreational market.

“It’s incumbent upon us to ensure that there’s access for medical patients through the medical marijuana facilities,” said Andrew Brisbo, director of the state Marijuana Regulatory Agency. “So I would err on the side of caution and ensuring better access to their needs instead of moving products into the broader adult use market.”

Budtender Elizabeth Clifford being the counter at House of Dank, a medical marijuana dispensary in Detroit in October, 2019.

For some, it’s a disappointing delay for a market that has been itching to start since voters approved legalizing marijuana last November 56-44%.

“Oh no — that’s going to be terrible. We’re telling everybody early 2020,” said Penny Milkey, owner of the Northern Specialty Health dispensary in Houghton. “We get phone calls every day from people in Wisconsin who want to try it as a medicine, but they can’t because it’s not legal in Wisconsin.”

Those people are even considering moving to Michigan if pot helps their ailments, Milkey said. “And adult use sales will allow them to try it first.”

The initial rules that have been written for the recreational market allow the MRA to decide whether it will allow for the transfer of plants and products from the medical to the recreational market, but Brisbo said, “We haven’t made that decision yet.”

That means that, unlike other states that have transitioned from medical to recreational markets, Michigan’s recreational market may have to start from scratch.

The state will begin accepting applications for business licenses on Nov. 1. And because most of the licenses will go to people who already have medical marijuana licenses and have gone through financial and criminal background checks, licenses should be awarded quickly, Brisbo said, perhaps even by Thanksgiving.

Most medical marijuana businesses are expected to apply for recreational licenses, but for every category except the growers, the license won’t do much good until after the first harvest of weed.

It takes time for marijuana to grow, be processed and ready for sale. Growers who are awarded licenses will be able to plant as soon as they get a license, but the first harvest probably won’t happen until late March or early April, especially if the growers aren’t allowed to transfer any of their medical plants to the recreational side.

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