After 15 years, medical marijuana is at an all-time low

Medical sales down over 70% across Michigan in past year

Nugs of marijuana, in a studio photo shoot on Oct. 20, 2023.

The 15th anniversary of medical marijuana legalization in Michigan is approaching, but recent regulatory data shows use is at an all-time low.

The Cannabis Regulatory Agency recently issued its monthly report for September 2023. According to its data, there was a near 40% decrease in the number of Isabella County patients receiving medical licenses and a 71% drop in medical sales statewide in the past year.

For September 2022 in Isabella County, there were 469 licensed patients, but in this past September only 297 were recorded, the CRA found.

Ankur Rungta, CEO of C3 Industries, a multi-state cannabis company, said in a Crains Detroit article benefits that previously encouraged medical use are no longer as relevant.

Qualifying conditions:





Hepatitis C

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

Crohn’s Disease

Agitation of Alzheimer’s Disease

Nail Patella

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder


Rheumatoid Arthritis

Spinal Cord Injury


Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Ulcerative Colitis

Parkinson’s Disease

Tourette’s Disease


Chronic Pain

Cerebral Palsy

A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces 1 or more of the following: Cachexia or Wasting Syndrome, severe or chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures (including but not limited to those characteristic of epilepsy), severe and persistent muscle spasms (including but not limited to those characteristics of multiple sclerosis)

“There used to be some meaningful advantages for a medical card for consumers – lower taxes and higher purchasing limits,” Rungta said. “But those advantages are less important, as overall prices come down.”

Nov. 4 marked 15 years since Michigan residents voted to legalize medical cannabis. The 2008 legislation, Michigan Ballot Proposal 08-1, allowed seriously or terminally ill patients to use marijuana per a doctor’s recommendation.

In 2016, that law was expanded to legalize edibles and allow medical cannabis dispensaries to open in the state.

Medical marijuana paved the way for a billion-dollar industry. But now, medical cannabis sales statewide are on the decline.

According to CRA data, the 71% decrease in medical sales totaled to just over $6 million in July.

Recreational takeover

Recreational sales are beginning to dominate Michigan's cannabis industry, according to data from the CRA.

Maintaining a medical marijuana facility in the state can be costly, in addition to the marketing and selling of products. Additionally, there are only a few medical-only dispensaries left in Michigan, Crains Detroit reported. Most offer both medical and recreational.

“For us, it’s expensive to maintain both licenses and follow both sets of rules,” Rungta said. “It’s a tighter market right now and managing costs is critical. As the market shrinks, it just makes less and less sense (to sell medical marijuana).”

Some dispensaries are shifting to only sell recreational cannabis, as profits are flourishing. In July, Michigan recreational sales in the state amounted to over $270 million, compared to just under $190 million a year prior.

Still, medical marijuana patients make up 1.5 percent of Michigan’s population, according to the Marijuana Policy Project. It may sound like a small group, but that’s over 150,000 residents registered in the Michigan Medical Marijuana Program (MMMP).

Instructions and the online portal to apply for a medical marijuana card are online.

How to apply for an MMMP

There are two main qualifications necessary to apply for an MMMP, according to the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

1) Proof of Michigan residency

2) Written certification from a registered Michigan physician and their contact information.

Unlike recreational cannabis being limited to adults 21 and over, the CRA does not have an age restriction to be a medical cannabis cardholder. For minors, a parent or legal guardian is needed to submit a form.

An MMMP license is valid two years from the date it is issued. The patient application fee is $40 through the CRA. There may be additional charges for medical consultation and evaluation with a state licensed practitioner.

The Cannabis Regulatory Agency offers an extensive list of all the qualifying medical conditions for medical use of marijuana. They are listed in the infobox on the left of this page.

After obtaining an MMMP card, the search for finding the perfect product begins. Now, there are over 300 active medical dispensaries in Michigan and twice as many recreational dispensaries throughout the state, according to Michigan Cannabis Information.

Shopping in Isabella County

Medical marijuana card holders spend 10% less overall at dispensaries due to excise tax, according to Green Cross Partners, a medical licensing clinic in Grand Rapids.

In Michigan, recreational cannabis comes with a 10% excise tax and 6% sales tax, whereas medical marijuana only has sales tax.

Nonetheless, finding a suitable dispensary can be tricky. From endless brands to wide-ranging prices, navigating what to buy and from whom can be a daunting task.

Apps and websites designed to locate dispensaries and explain products are available online.

WeedMaps and Leafly offer a database that will show the user the proximity, menu and prices of a dispensary in any given location. Leafly also has an educational component, offering helpful information on cannabis, its history and its social impact.

Currently, Mount Pleasant dispensaries include Pure Options, Jars, Lume, High Society Dispensary and Timber Cannabis Co. A new competitor, The Woods, hopes to open in town in December.

Patients still in need

The drop in medical marijuana use is substantial, but there remains patients of all ages still in need.

Last month, democrats in the Michigan house introduced a two-bill package, called Jayden’s Law, that would allow students to use medical cannabis at school.

The process, according to CBS News, would involve students visiting a "qualified guardian", per the House bill, to administer the medicine on school grounds. The law would require the cannabis to be unsmokable.

Jayden Carter, the inspiration for the House bill, was born with Asperger's Syndrome, ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder. 

His mom, Amie, told WNEM in April that she had to restrain Jayden up to 10 times per day when he was young. They tried every kind of pharmaceutical medicine but nothing helped.

In a span of six years, the police were called to their home over 120 times, and Jayden was hospitalized more than 300 times. At 9 years old, he was almost removed from home by Child Protective Services for fear of his mom's safety.

That's when a medical marijuana prescription changed his life.

Now, Michigan law prevents him, and other young people, from bringing the medication to school.

Currently, a student with a medical cannabis card has to be checked out of school and taken at least 1,000 feet away from the building to take the dose, then checked back into school.

"It is an inconvenience for students who take this medicine," Dylan Wegela, a bill sponsor, said to CBS. “Most of those students who have autism or have chronic pain or epilepsy have to take time out of the school day, miss instructional hours and go off campus to take medicine, and then come back. This would simply make their day a lot more cohesive."