Why Michigan May Not Be the First Midwest State to Legalize Recreational Sales

Today Michigan's recreational marijuana legalization laws took effect, meaning residents of the state cannot be arrested for possession or use of the drug. Michigan is the first Midwestern state to legalize recreational use, but that doesn't necessarily mean it will be the first one to allow legal sales.

While Michigan may have legalized recreational marijuana, legal recreational cannabis sales are still months, if not more than a year, away from becoming a reality. As a result, the race is on among other Midwestern states to legalize recreational marijuana sales before Michigan gets a chance to do so.

The biggest candidate to legalize recreational marijuana next is Illinois, a state that just elected pro-marijuana Governor J.B. Pritzker who will take office next month. Pritzker and other high-ranking Democrats say they want to legalize recreational marijuana as soon as possible, so it's possible Illinois will do so as early as next month. And considering Michigan only legalized recreational marijuana through ballot initiative so their state government may not be as inclined to legalize marijuana as soon as possible. In fact, many Michigan Republicans, who still control the state house and senate, have actually been proposing ways to restrict the state's recent ballot initiative. But several high-ranking politicians in Illinois are backing the effort to legalize marijuana, so they may push for a more expedited process.

There's also an outside chance that Minnesota could legalize recreational marijuana soon as well. Minnesota also just elected pro-marijuana Governor Tim Walz, who has also expressed interest in legalizing recreational cannabis as soon as possible. But unlike Illinois where Democrats control both chambers of the legislature, Democrats control the state house in Minnesota while Republicans control the senate. They're actually the only state in the country right now with a divided legislature. So if Walz wants to legalize recreational marijuana, he'll need to convince at least some Republicans in the senate to support it.

A big motivation for all three states will be tourism. They've all seen how Colorado, Oregon and Washington saw increases to tourism thanks to marijuana legalization, and they don't want their competing Midwest neighbors to get that boost before they do. 

So Michigan may be in the lead for now, but that may change in the very near future.

(h/t Chicago Tribune)

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