The economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is unfathomable. The U.S. Government has injected trillions of dollars into the economy to help fight unemployment and the business losses caused by various shelter in place and quarantine orders. While we probably won’t be able to quantify the full scope of the economic damage caused by COVID-19 for months or years, there are immediate consequences that will be readily visible in the weeks ahead.
Sadly, it seems inevitable that some businesses will be unable to weather the shutdown required by various shelter in place orders. With businesses and communities facing monumental challenges during these unprecedented times, the economic pains will also be felt local municipal governments – cities, townships, and villages.
The federal government and state and local governments have already begun to chart a course to re-open the economy and emerge from this public health and economic crisis. State and local leaders will have to be bold and innovative to encourage economic growth and get citizens back to work.
In Michigan, in particular, local municipal officials will have to look closely at their previous positions on a controversial topic – marijuana. Michigan has legalized marijuana for medical and adult recreational use. However, Michigan law has effectively given a veto power to local municipalities as to whether to permit marijuana businesses to operate in their community. As a practical matter, the overwhelming majority of Michigan’s municipalities have taken measures to prohibit marijuana businesses. Of Michigan’s 1,773 municipalities, only about 139 municipalities have adopted ordinances to allow marijuana businesses. Out of those 139, most have significant restrictions on the number and type of marijuana businesses that may operate in their community.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused each and every one of us to take bold and novel action. Local governments should do the same by re-evaluating their stance on Michigan marijuana businesses. These businesses are heavily regulated by the Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency. Just about any concern that a municipality may have about marijuana businesses can be addressed through legislation – from ensuring odors do not become a nuisance, setbacks from schools, churches, and parks, and using zoning to ensure a comprehensive and consistent planning strategy.
Just like it takes all of us working together to combat the virus, it will take all of us working together to rebuild the economy. Opportunities for economic growth and development exist in the cannabis industry. Municipal leaders should use very tool they have to help their community emerge from the economic crisis. Michigan’s marijuana laws establish a 10% excise tax on the sale of recreational marijuana, and 30% of that revenue is shared with county and municipal governments. While we still have a long way to go in the fight against COVID-19 and the road to economic recovery, it’s critical that state and local government officials start crafting a plan for economic recovery.
If you’re a municipal leader in Michigan or if you’re interested in starting a marijuana business, contact attorney John Fraser at Grewal Law PLLC to discuss how our cannabis law team can assist your organization. John currently serves as the Chair-Elect of the State Bar of Michigan’s Marijuana Law Section and is an adjunct professor of law at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School where he teaches a course on marijuana law. John regularly advises and consults with municipalities and has represented numerous entrepreneurs secure licensing for marijuana businesses.
Contact John and the rest of the Grewal Law PLLC cannabis team for a free consultation today by calling (888) 211-5798.