September 24 – Legal Marijuana Grows Along the Indiana-Michigan Border |
ANGOLA – Legal recreational marijuana in Michigan has led to a proliferation of retail stores in neighboring Branch County, which now has about a dozen outlets and at least one more in the works.
Their marketing efforts are clearly visible in counties bordering Indiana, particularly on Interstate 69, where billboards urge motorists to head north and stop at stores such as The Nest and The Tree House Provisioning (where all of their little trees are lit so the sign says near Interchange 354 in Steuben County).
With all of these stores popping up in Wolverine State where medical and recreational marijuana is legal, it’s no surprise that the product is being purchased by customers in the South and Southeast, Indiana and the Ohio where marijuana is still illegal.
One store, Lume Cannabis Co., Michigan’s largest chain, is literally a few blocks south of the 13 mile north exit of I-69, tucked away with nearby retail stores such as Walmart and a Strip center with a Buffalo Wild Restaurant Wings and GameStop store in Coldwater, Michigan.
âYes, we find that the majority of our marijuana arrests are from individuals who have traveled to northern Michigan to purchase product,â said Noble County Sheriff Max Weber.
Often what happens, said Steuben County Sheriff RJ Robinson, is people buy marijuana in a Michigan store and don’t wait to get home to Indiana before they go. ‘light up, then they are pulled over for a minor traffic violation and the officer smells of the pot, resulting in the arrest of the driver and possibly passengers.
While there may be more marijuana in the local market, Robinson said this has led to a proliferation of products, both from Michigan and the local black market.
âI wouldn’t go so far as to say that it replaced our illegal market locally, in fact I think it has in some ways prompted the local grower to attempt to grow their own product with less fear of attract as much attention to himself as a small producer or the fear of a long-term criminal conviction. This is because the market is completely saturated with both Michigan and local marijuana products, âsaid Robinson.
One incentive for the local grower, Robinson said, is that the cost of the legal product in Michigan is much higher than that of the illegal weed.
âBecause of the cost, we don’t see as many large amounts of alleged Michigan product in a single incident as we find what is described as a user amount in most contacts with individuals,â said Robinson.
Weber said what his agents are seeing is a much higher quality product, especially when people can get hold of medical grade marijuana.
âYes, the majority of the marijuana found is pharmaceutical grade,â Weber said.
Robinson said the local and legal marijuana available has increased use beyond the stereotypical stoner. The product is more accessible and less taboo since it is legal in Michigan. He said Michigan customers matched all socio-economic and cultural demographics.
Speaking in Angola on September 10 at the annual Steuben County Democrats’ dinner, Congressional 3rd District candidate John Stephens said Indiana should legalize marijuana in order, among other things, to keep revenues in the state.
âIndiana is a tourism exporter of marijuana,â said Stephens, of Roanoke.
Weber said there may be more marijuana use in his community, but he’s still battling more serious drugs, like methamphetamine.
âYeah, (marijuana) is a problem, but we still have a lot of methamphetamine and other narcotics,â Weber said. Robinson said legal products in Michigan mean more products and delivery methods. Now, instead of rolling a joint and lighting it, you can ingest marijuana in candy, lollipops, brownies, and the like. You can also ingest oils through a vape pen. Robinson and Weber both believe the legal product didn’t drive illegal marijuana sellers out of business.
âCannabis dealers have just switched to selling other forms of drugs to people,â Weber said.
A KPC Media Group editor said during a recent drive through one of the Branch County stores that the majority of vehicles in the parking lot had Indiana license plates.
A visit to the Coldwater Lume store by this reporter revealed middle-aged to retired-aged customers. The vehicles in the parking lot were late models, including a Lexus and other premium brands.
Sheriffs say the companies’ marketing efforts are paying off, attracting a customer who can afford legal marijuana.
âYes, I believe the marketing strategy is working for residents of Indiana and Ohio,â Robinson said.
âYes, I think opening the business just north of the state border takes advantage of a situation,â Weber said.