Marijuana » Higher Ground

Marijuana has long been part of Ann Arbor's brand. The city should embrace this.



Last week the Ann Arbor City Council drafted ordinances to allow cannabis micro-businesses, places where one can purchase and consume cannabis, and temporary permits to allow cannabis sales at one-time events. All these are in line with the new state regulations for adult-use recreational marijuana, a market that's expected to take off in 2020. And it seems right in line that Ann Arbor is a place that seems to be welcoming the changes with open arms.

There was some dissension voiced during discussions for the 8-2 vote that created the proposed ordinances. Council member Jeff Hayner voiced the opinion that "Ann Arbor is going to be marijuana central if we pass all this stuff." In case you're wondering, he meant that as a bad thing.

Memo to Hayner: Ann Arbor is already marijuana central in the state of Michigan. That has pretty much been the case since the Hash Bash started in 1972, continuing with the annual arrival of thousands of marijuana enthusiasts in town. No other place around here that has the cachet for marijuana of that city. It started with the Michigan Daily calling for legalization in 1967, continued through the John Sinclair Freedom Rally, the $5 fine decriminalization, the Monroe Street Fair, and the creation of one of the most welcoming towns for medical marijuana provisioning centers in the state. City council members speak regularly at the Hash Bash rally.

Dude, marijuana is one of your brands. Sure, it's not as big a brand as the University of Michigan and its sports teams, but Ann Arbor is known across the nation as a cannabis destination in the Midwest. Furthermore, there are a lot of municipalities across the state that will be allowing the same thing. The only thing that will make Ann Arbor stand out in that regard is how they go about doing this.

The draft rules go to public discussion before a vote, possibly in October. It will be interesting to hear what Ann Arbor residents have to say about this.

Speaking of brands: This Gage Cannabis Co. that recently opened a provisioning center in Ferndale is raising eyebrows across the cannabis corporate world. Gage — with its 19 class C growing (28,500 plants), three processing centers, and 13 provisioning center licenses — was already a big fish in the Michigan marijuana scene, but it looks like folks there may have ambitions beyond the Great Lakes state. Bruce Linton, former CEO of Canopy Growth Corporation, will soon join the Gage team after some corporate shifting that includes the acquisition of Innovations, a cannabis investment company. Linton is something of a cannabis business rock star, having helped build Canopy Growth into one of the biggest cannabis companies in the world.

The Gage press release announcing Linton's arrival said that he grew the company into a $20 billion enterprise with some 4,000 employees and operations in more than a dozen countries, particularly in Canada. Linton was fired by Canopy back in June. (Linton told Yahoo! Finance that he believed he was ousted because he wanted to take his time to grow the company.) He resurfaced as an adviser to the Florida-based Better Choice Co., a business that produces CBD health products for animals. When all this is taken together, it bespeaks a company with huge ambitions, not something that will just run a handful of high-end provisioning centers in Michigan. That bright orange logo is about to become ubiquitous in the cannabis game.

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