February 18, 2024

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Cannabis leaders push for education, social equity in 2021

5 min read

The relatively recent entry of cannabis retailers into the market offers new opportunities for education and employment. Courtesy of exclusive brands

West Michigan’s recreational cannabis industry has concretely tackled the challenges of 2020, but last year’s priorities are still at the center of 2021.

The cannabis boom in 2020 was due to an increase in the average purchase size among consumers. In Michigan alone, recreational cannabis sales rose 482% between January and December 2020.

Tom Benson, CEO of Fluresh, which opened West Michigan’s first adult delivery center in Grand Rapids in October 2020, said the company must adapt in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic to keep employees and customers safe and at the same time to meet the customers. Needs.

After the state approved the cannabis delivery service, Fluresh quickly set up its own, which included online ordering, order packing, and pickup, so customer contact was limited as much as possible.

“Honestly, we wish we could spend more personal time with the consumer,” said Benson. “It gives us a better chance to talk about the industry and the new products and everything, but every company has had to adapt. It was a challenge for us, but I think we have a lot of adjustments in the long run. and they will stay. “

As more consumers hit the market, education will be important, Benson said, especially for dosage and activation time. People may consume cannabis products for insomnia, anxiety, pain, leisure, or a number of other reasons, so they want to understand what they are getting.

“When someone is enjoying the benefits of marijuana or THC, they want to know, ‘How much should I take? Should I expect something to work in 30 minutes or an hour? “So we think dose control and fast-acting products are important,” said Benson.

Fluresh has two products that meet this demand. One is a fast-acting beverage booster that allows consumers to make their own cannabis-infused beverages with complete dose control and an accelerated onset of 10 to 15 minutes.

The other product is Fluresh’s Be Well soft gels, which are formulated for insomnia, anxiety, pain and inflammation. The gels work in 10-30 minutes.

“As cannabis matures, this customization and personalization will be really important,” said Lindsay Levin, Fluresh’s chief marketing and sales officer. “There is still a market for traditional products. Most of the state’s supply centers have sold cannabis in bulk, but we’re seeing more of a return to packaged flowers. “

Levin added that bulk sales of cannabis flower are typically done by supply centers, which then process the plant and break it down into smaller doses for medical and retail customers. However, the process of getting prepackaged flowers to customers means fewer hands touching them, which makes for more cleanliness and freshness, and lowers labor costs for retailers.

“We both sell because the market enjoys both sides, but I think one of the things we will see in 2021 is more and more brands going online with pre-packaged flowers,” she said.

COVID-19 awareness is also leading more recreational users to choose edible products. While smoking or vaping is Michiganders’ primary method of consuming cannabis, concerns about sharing or inhaling are leading consumers to choose other formats.

Fluresh also strived to bring social justice to its business operations. Fluresh and the Black and Brown Cannabis Guild (BBCG) sponsored the National Expungement Week drive-up clinic in Grand Rapids in September to provide extinction resources for those convicted of low-level crimes.

“The state is moving towards automatic marijuana crime eradication, but it’s very complicated,” said Chris Anderson, general counsel and chief regulatory officer for Fluresh. “Deleting records requires a lot of paperwork. You need a lawyer to solve the problem. You need to do updated background checks … it takes time and money, which is why we have contributed both time and money, and we continue to work with other partners in the state to move this forward. “

Fluresh is also working with the Kent County’s BBCG, LINC UP and Disability Advocates to recruit and retain a diverse pool of applicants, particularly those negatively affected by the war on drugs within 49507 ZIP Code.

“The marijuana ban has its roots in racist politics 100 years ago, so it has had a disproportionate impact in black and brown communities across the country,” said Anderson. “I think every other company in Grand Rapids is realizing this is a priority.”

Fluresh’s cannabis supply center is located in the heart of 49507 and plans to hire around 100 people from the region. Anderson said the company is uniquely positioned to have a direct positive impact on the community.

Fluresh also announced its first Fluresh 5 Accelerator program, which offers cohorts of five local businesses and entrepreneurs a series of sessions throughout the year covering bookkeeping, tax, legal, marketing and other key topics when starting a cannabis business be treated.

“We’ll be able to give them hands-on experience … connecting with people in the industry to get them started,” said Anderson. “It’s a very capital-intensive industry and without experience and connections it can be challenging.”

All applicants for the Fluresh 5 first cohort are minority-owned and located in West Michigan, and 57% are female-owned.

Another entry into the arena is Exclusive Brands, an Ann Arbor-based company that opened Michigan’s first adult pharmacy in December 2018 and recently opened for medical and recreational customers in Grand Rapids.

Exclusive Brands development director Narmin Jarrous agreed that cannabis companies have a role to play in ensuring that Michigan’s growing industry is fair.

“We are committed to social justice, and we believe that many other business people want to be a part of it as we work for social justice,” said Jarrous.

In addition to hiring a diverse workforce, Exclusive Brands also mentors people from disenfranchised communities to get into the cannabis industry and helps with the application process and application fees.

Jarrous also personally helped create Michigan’s Social Equity Program, a provision of the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act (MRTMA) designed to encourage diverse participation in the state cannabis industry.

“We’re so focused on legalization and we finally got it done,” Jarrous said. “I think it’s amazing because people have access to cannabis and its medicine, but at the same time we’re so far behind because people still have time and others are making millions of dollars in this industry.”

While communities in West Michigan have been slow to adopt recreational business licenses compared to other parts of the state, Jarrous said the reception of Exclusive Brands at Grand Rapids has been very positive and businesses likely always have to steer critics in communities where they do so hope grow.

“You will always meet people who have some resistance to cannabis,” she said. “Ann Arbor is very acceptable and liberal, but you will still meet people who are very scared of this plant. I hope that with our presence and continued work at Grand Rapids, more people will understand cannabis and how much good it means to people. “