Recreational marijuana is legal in Michigan and will soon be legal in Illinois. Here's what to know
Two Midwestern states are breaking into the recreational marijuana market, and dispensaries are expecting huge crowds.
Legal weed sales began Sunday in Michigan, where a handful of dispensaries in Ann Arbor planned to be open for business. The landmark moment in the state's cannabis industry comes amid a temporary ban on the sale of vaping devices in Michigan as health officials investigate the causes of vaping-related lung illnesses nationwide.
In Illinois, where officials are grappling with a lack of racial equity in the cannabis industry, sales are expected to begin New Year's Day.
The states are the 10th and 11th nationwide to allow recreational marijuana sales.
Thirty-three states allow the sale of marijuana for medical use, which Michigan legalized in 2008, followed by Illinois in 2013.
Here's what you need to know.
Who can legally buy weed in Michigan and Illinois?
Anyone over the age of 21 with a valid state ID or driver's license can purchase recreational marijuana from licensed retailers.
In Michigan, residents can legally possess up to 2.5 ounces on their person, or up to 10 ounces at home.
In Illinois, residents will be able to have up to 30 grams of cannabis flower, 5 grams of concentrate and 500 milligrams of THC in products such as edibles. Non-Illinois residents in the state may possess up to only half as much as residents.
However, some restrictions still apply. Landowners can ban cannabis use, and employers can prohibit employees from having THC in their systems.
It's illegal to drive while impaired and to possess marijuana on federal land and federally funded facilities, including some hospitals, public housing and more.
Michigan's medical marijuana industry serves nearly 300,000 people but could serve about 1.5 million people in the recreational market, according to estimates from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Illinois has a much smaller medical marijuana industry, serving about 91,000 people. The state's recreational marijuana industry could serve nearly 1 million consumers living in the state, compounded by millions of tourists annually, according to a report by cannabis consulting firm Freedman & Koski.
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Who's selling in Michigan and Illinois?
In Michigan, at least three shops are ready to go on day one, and they're all in Ann Arbor: Exclusive Brands, Arbor Wellness and Greenstone Provisions.
At 10 a.m., the retailers were expected to begin transferring up to 50% of their products from the medical side of the business to the new recreational market.
In Illinois, sales are scheduled to begin at 6 a.m. Jan. 1, 2020. The state has 55 existing medical dispensaries, but regulators have licensed 29 stores so far, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Can you transport weed out of state?
No, weed is still illegal at the federal level and cannot be taken across state lines — by any form of transportation.
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Are communities buying in?
It doesn't seem like it.
Since Michiganders voted to approve legalizing recreational marijuana about a year ago, approximately 80% of municipalities in the state have opted out of allowing recreational sales in their communities. In early November, the Detroit City Council voted unanimously to opt out of the recreational business until Jan. 31.
In Illinois, where the state Legislature easily approved the sale of recreational marijuana this past spring, communities have been hesitant to allow businesses in their own backyards, particularly in the suburbs. While Chicago plans to allow cannabis sales, local aldermen may seek to opt out individual precincts.
Illinois law expunges drug offenses
The Illinois law aims to promote social equity by giving a leg up to minority entrepreneurs disproportionately impacted by poverty and the war on drugs.
The law expunges certain drug-based criminal records and establishes a fund to provide financial resources for business start-ups.
The provision to help expunge marijuana offenses applies to people convicted of possessing a small amount of the drug who were not associated with violence, meaning that some 770,000 Illinois residents could have their convictions expunged, according to ABC News.
Some Illinois residents and politicians, however, say that minority groups are still being left out of the process. Earlier this month, a lottery to determine which businesses would gain the right to sell marijuana in Chicago attracted scrutiny when a viral photo posted to social media appeared to show a group of predominantly white men gathered in the room.
That same afternoon, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a Twitter post that she was "not satisfied with the current state of equity in the cannabis industry."
Where else are recreational sales legal?
In addition to Michigan and Illinois, nine other states have legalized the sale and use of recreational marijuana for adults: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon, Nevada, Vermont and Washington, along with the District of Columbia.
Efforts to legalize marijuana in New Jersey and in New York failed earlier this year.
How vaping deaths have chilled the industry
The legalization of recreational marijuana sales comes amid a national vaping epidemic that has caused serious lung illnesses in nearly 2,300 people — including 47 deaths — in 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
On Nov. 22, Michigan mandated a temporary halt of the sale of marijuana vapes and ordered that a portion of existing cannabis-infused vape cartridges get retested to ensure they don't contain an additive. Officials suspect that vitamin E acetate, an additive used in THC oil, may be linked to the illnesses.
One retailer told the Detroit Free Press that vape sales make up 30% of his business, raising questions about how the mandate may affect Michigan's recreational market.
At least two people in Michigan and three in Illinois have died from a vaping-related injury.
In September, President Donald Trump announced that he would ban flavored vaping products other than menthol and tobacco but has yet to do so. Earlier this month, he held a meeting with industry and advocacy groups.
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