Cannabis Dispensaries Flourish in Southwest Michigan, Attracting Chicago and Indiana Residents

March 10th, 2024 Business & Industry
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Residents of Northwest Indiana and the greater Chicagoland area have long been drawn to Southwest Michigan for its picturesque beaches, sprawling sand dunes, charming wineries, craft breweries, and inviting farm stands. However, Harbor Country, known for its summer retreats, cozy Airbnbs, and beach relaxation, is now attracting visitors with a new recreational option: cannabis dispensaries.

Recently, The Rolling Embers, URB, and The Bloomery opened their doors close to Exit 1 on Interstate 94, marking the gateway into Michigan from Indiana. Additionally, King of Budz, a chain with existing locations in Monroe, Ferndale, and Detroit, is in the process of establishing a new store in this prime location. JARS Cannabis is expected to open its doors on U.S. 12 in New Buffalo, near the iconic "Welcome to Michigan" sign, in May. Meanwhile, Pharmhouse Wellness, known for its Grand Rapids location, plans to inaugurate a new dispensary a mile north on U.S. 12 this spring.

This burgeoning cannabis market near the Indiana border, where cannabis remains illegal, is seen as just the beginning. With 35 applications submitted for dispensary operations in New Buffalo Township, the area might soon be a hotspot for cannabis enthusiasts, despite none being located within the city limits of New Buffalo itself. This expansion into New Buffalo Township, a region celebrated for its lighthouses, marinas, and leisurely beach days, might set a new record for dispensary density in Michigan, potentially surpassing urban centers like Ann Arbor, Detroit, or Lansing if all applications are approved.

With a significant investment projected between $50 million and $100 million in the township, the economic impact of these dispensaries is notable. The potential tax revenue from these establishments could provide a continuous financial boost to the local community. In comparison, Michigan's 10% cannabis excise tax brought in $290.3 million statewide last year, illustrating the significant fiscal benefits of the legalized cannabis industry.

The introduction of dispensaries in areas like New Buffalo Township not only generates tax revenue but also creates job opportunities, contributing positively to the economy. Studies suggest that states legalizing recreational cannabis have seen modest but significant employment growth, particularly in agriculture. This growth extends to increased home prices and population, highlighting the multifaceted economic benefits of legalization.

The situation in New Buffalo Township mirrors the economic uplift seen in Monroe, Michigan, driven by recreational cannabis sales to residents from states with stricter cannabis laws. This phenomenon of cross-border commerce, spurred by differences in state laws, reflects broader trends seen in the United States, underscoring the economic incentives for legalization amidst ongoing debates about its social impact.

While research on the effects of cannabis legalization is ongoing, early findings generally point to positive economic impacts alongside a need for careful consideration of potential social costs. As the landscape of cannabis legalization continues to evolve, communities like New Buffalo Township are at the forefront of a significant shift in recreational and economic dynamics.

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