The governmental green rush is on in Michigan. The state’s Bureau of Marijuana Regulation has announced that its nascent medical marijuana program sold $30.2 million of medical product in the first four months of operation. That should equal some $1.8 million in sales taxes, and $112,800 in excise tax paid to the state. Medical marijuana license fees for businesses have brought in an additional $11.9 million.
Cash flow has been so good, in fact, that authorities are weighing the reduction of fees associated with getting a medical marijuana card, since the entire amount they have been collecting isn’t necessary to operate the program. The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs announced that application fees from the last three years are generating 90 to 100 percent more revenues than the program’s operating expenses.
As such, a part of the money generated from marijuana is currently going to fund other types of governmental programs and positions, including the attorney general and state police, addition treatment and prevention facilities, sobriety tests, and the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards.
Voters put their stamp of approval on legalization back in November in the state. Marijuana dispensaries have been hawking cannabis in the state since late 2018, though the process has not been without its bumps. In January, a dozen-plus strains of marijuana were recalled after testing positive for mold, yeast, and other harmful substances — after many of them had already been sold to customers, in among the nearly 6,300 pounds of medical cannabis that changed hands in Michigan since the implementation of the medical marijuana program.
Due to federal banking laws, many Michigan cannabis businesses are forced to deal in cash. To avoid the risk of robberies, some use third-party services like PayQuick, which allows weed businesses to transport money via verification-enabled safe boxes, which are later picked up and brought to Federal Reserve banks.
Contaminants and cash flow concerns are not the only issues still facing marijuana advocates in Michigan. Activists filed a lawsuit in January that looks to reclassify cannabis, which is currently a Schedule I drug that lacks any medicinal value, according to Michigan law.
And as much revenue as the state is taking in from voters’ approval of its medical marijuana program, not all are convinced that patients are obeying the letter of the law when it comes to purchasing their meds.
“I just question, how do they plan on enforcing patients paying taxes on marijuana purchases from their caregiver?” cannabis business tax professional James Campbell said to Michigan Live.
Though Michigan residents are allowed to apply for licenses to grow marijuana for sale to up to five people, there is not yet a method to track these transactions to make sure they include sales tax.
These growing pains should be the topic of examination in the months to come. Given the money involved, the state would do well to make sure all regulations are being followed. Michigan’s Senate Fiscal Agency predicted in a 2016 report that the state could make up to $50 million a year in cannabis sales taxes.