Although marijuana is now legal for recreational use across the state of Michigan, there isn’t anywhere for adult cannabis consumers to purchase it. The state must first assemble the regulatory affairs for the new pot market, which, if the predictions are accurate, could set it at early 2020 before dispensaries open their doors.
This means for the next year or so, most pot consumers (at least those without a medical marijuana card) will be forced to continue frequenting the black market. Or maybe not.
It seems a handful of entrepreneurs have identified a loophole in the law that will allow them to capitalize on legal cannabis long before the state gets its act together.
It’s a master plan that borrows a chapter from the District of Columbia – where marijuana is legal, but there is no retail market is available – in which cannabis operations simply “gift” marijuana to customers who purchase food or other non-pot-related merchandise.
A Boston-based online business by the name of On High Road is one of those with plans to strike while the iron is hot. The company sells adults 21 and older “munchie bags” full of baked good and assorted candies for anywhere between $55 and $120. As an added bonus, customers also receive a complimentary supply of marijuana with every order.
Owner Brandon Anthony says his company, which is rolling out services in Detroit, keeps law enforcement from swooping in to shut them down by never gifting more weed than what is allowed under the state’s possession limit. And his operation doesn’t keep a surplus of weed on hand.
“There is a gifting clause within the law, so we give the cannabis to customers,” Anthony told the Detroit Free Press. “Under the laws in Michigan, you can gift up to 2.5 ounces.”
In Ann Arbor, a business called Smoke’s Chocolate is doing much of the same. The operation opened its doors early this month, providing customers with chocolate and then tossing in a complimentary stash of weed. The business isn’t pulling any punches when it comes to advertising what it’s really about. Its slogan is simply “Buy some chocolate, get some weed.” Not so subtle, but to the point.
Owner Marc Bernard runs the online shop out of his apartment, according to a report from MLive. And it has been lucrative so far. The company was pulling in an average of $600 per day before it was forced to take a temporary hiatus for expansion purposes.
“It’s been absolutely insane,” Bernard said. “We went viral, and we have not been able to keep up with demand.”
These types of online weed businesses have been known to pop up in every legal marijuana states while the powers that be work to implement the legal system.
The idea gained momentum after the District of Columbia legalized marijuana a few years back without including a way for the people to buy it. It’s a perfect business model for smaller operations that want to participate in the cannabis industry without coming up with a huge bankroll.
“Michigan has been on our radar since last year,” Anthony said. “With all the legal and licensing fees, we couldn’t afford [applying for a license], so we figured out a legal loophole. And I have an attorney that tells me all the legal loopholes are covered.”
Legal experts say the “gifting” model is right in line with the law. It is perfectly acceptable in Michigan to give someone (as long as they are an adult 21 and over) up to 2.5 ounces of raw marijuana or 15 grams of cannabis extracts. As long as nobody is profiting from the exchange (no remuneration), all is well and good… technically. The law, however, is not cut and dry, as there are still a lot of questions about where the line is drawn.
For example: Can Michigan medical marijuana patients give cannabis away to people without a medical marijuana card? No one really has any idea. There is also the question of whether selling low dollar items at ten times the price really counts as “no remuneration.” So far, law enforcement has not said how it will approach the grey market.
But one thing is for sure, the weed dealers in Michigan are going to push the limits in the coming months while the state figures out how its taxed and regulated scene is going to go down.