Cannabis Legalization: A Tale Of Two Cities

Cannabis legalization is growing in acceptance, both formally and informally. Still, even as states move to legalize recreational marijuana and expand access for medical use, some cities are dragging their feet. Here’s why that’s a big mistake. 

In the earliest days of legalization, both cities and states rushed to reap the myriad benefits of cannabis. The birth of a popular retail industry with deep roots in production offered good jobs, stable tax income, and new investment in many places still struggling with the lingering effects of the 2008 Great Recession. 

The sort of city hesitant to usher in this new asset doesn’t fit neatly into a box. At one end of the spectrum, consider Alpena, Michigan. This northern Michigan town has been slow to welcome marijuana businesses into its city limits, a downtown that remains strong in spite of the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, like any collection of brick-and-mortar enterprises these days, the community could use an injection of energy and tax revenue, both of which coil come from cannabis. 

Just this month, Alpena has committed to taking a closer look at what marijuana would look like. Currently, the city has offers from two retailers to open up shop. Township managers are looking at how much tax revenue these ventures might contribute. The numbers from nearby municipalities aren’t massive, but that’s largely a result of the small populations of the communities they serve, as well as restrictions to medical only. Sums of $28,000 and $56,000 to nearby Rogers Township and Presque Isle County, respectively, are likely to be considerably less than what Alpena would generate. 

On the other end of the spectrum is Washington D.C. itself. What’s fascinating in our nation’s capital is that the fight for legalization is in some ways tied to the fight for statehood. Currently, D.C. is subject to the Harris Rider, a law that blocks the city from allowing cannabis shops in the city. The law has been a thorn in the side of the city since 2014, and without voting representation, it’s been exceedingly difficult to change the law. 

That’s where statehood comes in. As D.C. continues to seek recognition at the 51st state in the Union, the cannabis question is one of many small changes that would be quick to follow. With the ability to craft its own laws like any other state, experts believe the enthusiasm not just to legalize recreational marijuana, but also decriminalize it and invest in areas of the city that have been hardest-hit by law enforcement, could result in sweeping changes in a community that has long been troubled by drug charges and resultant violence. 

Two very different cities and different issues, but cannabis can provide positive solutions for both. While smaller, rural communities need employment and tax revenue, larger cities can also benefit from the decriminalization and societal linvestment legal changes can provide. 

Cannabis legalization is coming, and we believe strongly that communities can benefit even more by becoming early adopters and investors. It’s a movement that has already pushed Michigan well ahead of other states in benefiting from a growing industry; let’s keep it going.