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How Michigan’s Gage Green Group is reimagining boutique cannabis

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Gage Green Group founders Jeff Selsor and Michael Fang first met in California in the early 2000s, where they quickly earned a reputation for breeding and cultivating high-quality cannabis seeds for coveted strains like Grape Stomper OG and Mendo Breath. Since then, their business has primarily functioned as a seed bank, and in 2014, Gage Green Group called Michigan home, moving to the east side of the state after a falling out with previous business partners in California and Oregon.

But in early 2017, police raided Gage Green Group at their grow and breeding site north of Flint, where officials confiscated almost everything, including their lights, plants, and seeds they had been breeding for more than a decade.

"Back then we were just pheno-hunting," Fang says. "We were doing research, we were popping a lot of seeds. We had a lot of clones." Fang refers to the process of growing many seeds to find a phenotype with the desired dominant traits. Since the desired traits are often not expressed until the plants start flowering, clones are made before the traits show, which are then either grown or discarded.

According to the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act of 2008, a "plant" is "any living organism that produces its own food through photosynthesis and has observable root formation or is in growth material." The law allows growers to have up to 12 plants, but even a small clone is considered a "plant," which is counted in the total plant limit.

"We had to rebuild with nothing," Fang says. "We started from zero in 2017 ... we had no genetics, no seeds, no flowers, and no money."

While Selsor and Fang were working to rebuild their business, Gage Green Group received multiple offers to buy out what they had left of their seed collection and their business, as well as a copyright dispute over its name. (Though it's worth noting that "gage" is Jazz Age slang for marijuana.)

"This industry is really hard," Fang says. "I don't know how to compare it to any other industry."

In 2018, Michigan voters legalized recreational marijuana use and sales, which further changed the business landscape for Gage Green Group. "We are just cultivating ourselves, we are trying to make, indeed, the best us we can be," says Fang.

Despite these obstacles, Gage Green Group has doubled down on its commitment to the most natural and healthy cannabis plants.

"We don't want the cheap stuff around anymore. We don't want laziness and people skipping steps for profit," Fang says. "If we can all do our best work to make money, that's the kind of world we want to live in."

Today Gage Green Group's seed bank has become recognized across the country, featured in books, magazines, and earned numerous awards from the High Times Cannabis Cup.

"We aren't trying to be huge and commercial," says Fang. "We want to stay boutique."

"We turned a negative situation into a positive situation," Selsor says. "We had a lot of hurdles. We have a boatload of information from a boatload of experience. A lot of people would really fail in our situation."

Now, Gage Green Group is preparing for its Winter and Spring Organic Cups, which brings industry professionals from around the state to the company's cannabis farm to network and learn about organic growing practices.

More information can be found at gagegreengroup.com.

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