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Michigan's marijuana business surges, then slows, amid COVID-19 outbreak

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

Michigan’s marijuana companies are experiencing ups and downs with the COVID-19 outbreak.

Marijuana businesses saw a rise in recreational sales before last Monday’s Stay Home order took effect. 

According to the Marijuana Regulatory Agency, adult-use marijuana sales topped $5.7 million the week of March 16th to 22nd. A million dollars more than sales from the previous week.   

Industry officials say business also spiked the day Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered Michiganders to stay home to slow the spread of the coronavirus. But they say since last Monday, state rules limiting sales to curb side pickup only have discouraged some customers.

Narmin Jarrous is the executive vice president of business development for Exclusive Brands.

She says the Ann Arbor based company’s business has been “struggling” since the governor’s order took effect.

“We’re scared,” says Jarrous. “We know the demand is there and people want to buy it.  But if people can’t leave their homes, obviously they can’t come out and purchase these products.”

Exclusive and other marijuana companies are paying their employees bonuses to keep their staffing levels up.  

Company officials say while sales of recreational cannabis products have dipped, demand for medical marijuana products remain steady.

The COVID-19 pandemic is striking just as Michigan’s fledgling cannabis industry was in the midst of expanding.

Recreational sales have only been legal since December 1st, 2019.  

Michigan voters approved marijuana for adult-use in 2018. Since then, the industry has been scaling up with greenhouses, testing labs and retail shops. 

While COVID-19 has some in Michigan’s marijuana reassessing their growth plans, the pandemic is not discouraging at least one company from moving forward its expansion plans.

Before the pandemic, Lume Cannabis had plans to expand across the state. Spokesman Joseph Stankowski says those plans remain in place.

“With the Stay at Home order in place, we will have some contractor workers from a construction standpoint that are obviously no longer able to work,” says Stankowski. “So we will experience some delays from a buildout perspective, but we still plan to open just about 20 stores throughout the state by the end of this year.”

This week,Lumeopened a new retail outlet in Oakland County. 

Stankowski says they hope to open their first retail space in the Upper Peninsula next month. 

He says Lume also plans on expanding its grow facility in Osceola to meet expected growing demand for marijuana in Michigan. 

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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