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Pot businesses gather in Detroit a week before Michigan votes on legalizing marijuana

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

A two-day business conference opened Tuesday in Detroit with vendors talking about growing, marketing and selling marijuana.

Next week, Michigan votes on legalizing recreational marijuana. The folks attending the Commercial Cannabis Conference and Expo are banking on Michiganders saying yes.

More than 1,500 attendees were checking out lamps, security doors, and other services at dozens of booths set up in one of the meeting halls at Cobo Center. 

Keith Stroup is the founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. He believes commercial marijuana will be good business in Michigan. Though he says federal reforms are still needed to pass the Congress, which a Yes vote next week may help.

“If you approve this on November 6th, every member of your [congressional] delegation is going to have to take a fresh look at their position on federal marijuana policy,” says Stroup. “And most of them are going to end up saying ‘my state was right.'”

People attending the conference are optimistic Proposal 1 will pass next week.

Celeste Miranda is the owner of The Cannabis Marketing Lab/MACE Media. Her company provides marketing services to various sectors of the cannabis industry and publishes four industry trade magazines.

Miranda expects Michigan will benefit by being the only Midwest state with legal recreational marijuana, drawing in customers from Ohio, Indiana and other states.

“If Michigan does go 'rec' and if the vote does pass, by all means it’s going to draw in from those states…until those states catch up,” says Miranda.

Miranda points to the state of Oregon as an example.

Oregon saw booming sales after legalizing pot. Only to see those sales slide after California allowed recreational marijuana sales. 

Polls have shown a majority of likely Michigan voters plan to cast their ballot in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana. 

Opponents of legal pot have been stepping up their campaign to convince Michiganders to vote the pot proposal down. They cite problems with crime, DUI’s, children’s use, and other social factors that they say outweigh the financial benefits from legalizing cannabis sales for recreational use.

The campaign to legalize marijuana is edging into the race for Michigan governor. Tuesday, the MILegalize political action committee endorsed Democrat Gretchen Whitmer for governor. Whitmer has supported the legalizing effort. Republican Bill Schuette has been a longtime opponent of legalizing marijuana in any form, including his opposition to the 2008 effort to legalize medical marijuana. 

"Perhaps more than any other elected official, (Schuette) has obstructed the will of the voters and caused unnecessary suffering for so many patients and families," added MILegalize Board member Jamie Lowell.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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