Published in Economic Development

Cannabis attorney expects more municipalities to allow recreational sales in 2021 as benefits are realized

BY Sunday, December 20, 2020 05:50pm

Ben Wrigley — along with fellow attorney Robert Hendricks — created a specialized law practice in 2013 under the CannaLex division of their firm, Wrigley Hoffman PC. As more adult-use dispensaries open across the state, Wrigley has emerged as a local voice in the cannabis industry to help make sense of frequently changing state and local restrictions for business owners. He has represented numerous clients seeking to start cannabis businesses in Michigan’s medical and adult-use markets, which he says are poised to expand to more municipalities. 

Do you anticipate more municipalities opting into the sale of adult-use cannabis in 2021?

I predict Grandville and the city of Wyoming will take a hard look at opting in. The negative-effects perception and potential constant criminal element of having dispensaries is not being borne out. As other cities and municipalities in the West Michigan area look at the opportunities of opting in, they begin to outweigh the negatives.

Ben Wrigley, partner at CannaLex Law COURTESY PHOTO

I believe many properties are going to be contesting the value of their properties next year, but a marjuana shop isn’t. Maybe a marijuana facility is a piece of property that has an upgoing value because of all these municipalities that are going to be hurting for money. I think we’ll see the number of municipalities opting in begin to increase more dramatically than in the past as they realize the revenue and property benefits.

Is it getting harder for smaller, local operators to get into the cannabis industry?

The more municipalities that (opt into adult-use), the value of the properties drops, the cost drops and you can get into it. Can the person who is poor or marginalized get in? No. It’s going to take some capital to get in. There are opportunities, but let’s be candid, those are generally in outlying areas. 

You’ve got to be able to acquire the property at a low cost. Then the problem again is there aren’t that many municipalities that are opted into adult-use, so there is less land available and the price is higher. If Grand Haven and Wyoming were to come in, the price would go down. If more smaller townships or villages started to opt in, the average person could get in.

What other trends do you expect to see in the cannabis industry in the new year?

The city of Grand Rapids was faced with the option of adding a consumption license to its ordinance. You can’t gather now, but I think as they study that over time and can see what has happened in other states around the country, they can see this is an opportunity. 

The industry is going to concentrate more on the retail sales and growing and processing rather than marijuana events or consumption licenses, but this is a great time to begin discussing it.

How many recreational dispensaries do you expect to see in Grand Rapids in 2021?

By the end of 2021 there will be a dozen retail enterprises in the city that have adult-use. They will have to be strategically located, and I don’t see the city reducing the restrictions. The next question they will have to deal with is the city center proper. Are we going to open up the city center to dispensaries? 

Is there a chance marijuana use will be legalized at the federal level in 2021?

The new administration, particularly Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, is on board with change from a number of standpoints. Change will come, but the problem truly lies in Georgia. On a federal level, if the Republican side of the aisle wins and continues a Senate majority, then they will want something for going along with taking marijuana off schedule 1. It would then be a matter of whether the Democratic side of the aisle is willing to give up enough. There could be some movement.

What effect would legalizing it at the federal level have on West Michigan dispensary owners?

It’s fascinating. If I’m running a facility right now in the state of Michigan, obviously I’ve got employees, payrolls are being paid, and taxes are being paid. If I’m following all the state guidelines, I have a business. Especially if I’ve got my banking situation solved and find a bank that will work with me, maybe I don’t want it off schedule 1 because now the banking and lending process is open to everybody. Take it off schedule 1 at the federal level and every giant entity in the world is able to come in. That’s capitalism at its best.

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