- Larry Gabriel
- Vetra Stephens of cannabis company 1st Quality Medz shows her extraction machine.
1st Quality Medz rests along a modest stretch of Jefferson Ave. in River Rouge. The address is on a side street, although it sits on a corner and has a door that opens to the Jefferson side. In 2019, it became the first recreational marijuana dispensary in Wayne County.
The neat and orderly place is relatively small compared to some dispensaries in southeast Michigan, but Vetra Stephens has big plans for growth. For one thing, Stephens, one of three owners of the business, also has a grow facility in another area of River Rouge. And for a second thing, the group owns a processing facility in the same area.
It's those other assets through which Stephens intends to make a splash in Michigan's marijuana market. They expect to get their state license to process extracts in the next couple of weeks. Then there will be a new brand available at 1st Quality and hopefully other retail outlets in the area. The brand is called "The V Affect" and, at least initially, the company expects to produce Rick Simpson Oil (RSO), gummies, and vape carts starting in April.
"We'll have the RSO because that's what's near and dear to our hearts," Stephens says. "Then we'll have The V Effect gummy line, and we’ll also have cartridges. Those are the three things we’ll have right out of the gate, and then we'll kind of listen to the customers and see what they're looking for and then we'll add to the product line. And then we'll be doing flower, as well."
There are 11 strains growing in their 20,000-square-foot grow facility with names like Big Chillz, Mac Stomper, Baker's Delight, Blue Gelato, and Garlic Mints. Some of it is stored and waiting for the processing to start.
"RSO is near and dear to my heart and my partner's heart because this is the reason why we got into this in the first place — for health reasons,” Stephens says. "Both of us tried RSO. It was the first product that we both tried. It helped us. He was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. It helped him. Myself with lupus — it helped me."
Stephens started on the medical side and has expanded from there. She's also been active with local and state officials in trying to shape the rules of the burgeoning industry, and she sits on the board of the Great Lakes Cannabis Chamber of Commerce.
And she's working to build the brand. Build-out is still ongoing at the processing facility, and boxes with parts of the gummy-making machine are stored in a couple of areas. Based on the number of boxes waiting, the gummy machine looks to be huge. Electricians were working in the area where it will be assembled.
Right now there are about 25 workers employed at the three facilities. That will expand as soon as they start processing products. Packagers, extractors, brand ambassadors, and marketers will come on board.
As a Black woman, Stephens's expansion into the cannabis industry is significant because of the disparities there. According to a recent report from the Marijuana Regulatory Agency, only 3.8% of Michigan residents with an ownership interest in licensed recreational marijuana businesses are Black, though Black people make up 13.7% of the state's population.
First Quality Medz is entering the market with what experience shows will sell. Beyond her entry items, Stephens says that she'll wait and see what people ask for before any new products come online. And because their buildings sit on such spacious plots, Stephens has high hopes for expansion.
A fair number of product lines on the shelves in Michigan are those that originated in other states and are licensed to local businesses for production. This one originated right here. Pretty soon we'll see just what The V Affect is and what impact it’ll have on the market.
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