When it comes to cannabis tourism, no trip is compete without a sunset over take Michigan with a bit of orange sky, sand dunes and bare trees near the beach

Traveling and Cannabis Tourism in Michigan

Michigan is a four-season travel state, and a fair number of people who travel here take advantage of legal recreational cannabis or Michigan’s reciprocal medical marijuana program. As a result, we’re seeing cannabis tourism growing here.  Michigan welcomes the cannabis curious from nearby prohibition states like Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin and everyone who travels here to enjoy all that Michigan offers—including legal weed.

Cannabis tourism is a growing area for many communities in Michigan. Cities, villages, or townships that have opted in for recreational cannabis have the opportunity to promote them, but few do. Michigan has around 700 marijuana dispensaries in operation scattered throughout the state. And while you can’t buy legal recreational cannabis in Michigan’s largest city, Detroit (it’s medical only), you’ll find an abundance of provisioning stores in other tourist hotspots. Places up and down Michigan’s Lake Michigan coastline from Benton Harbor near the state line with Indiana to Muskegon have a variety of cannabis stores. In addition, you’ll find cannabis available in Bay City over in the Thumb region and in Up North places like Cadillac and Marquette and Houghton in the UP near Wisconsin. 

cannabis tourism is helped by Michigan's two cross lake ferries from Wisconsin. This photo taken from the Lake Express ferry shows the red lighthouse at the Muskegon harbor.

What proves to be perplexing for cannabis tourists or tourists who want cannabis is finding a place to consume and what to do with the cannabis you don’t consume while in the Mitten State.

Here’s a little list of where you can’t consume cannabis in Michigan. Some of it is Michigan law, and some are the preference of property owners.

  • In your car or driving or sitting in a vehicle on any Michigan roadway.
  • In a boat on a Michigan waterway
  • Out in public where anyone can see you smoking
  • On private property where cannabis is expressly prohibited
  • In most hotel/motel rooms or on hotel property
  • Around the campfire at the Michigan State Park or on a state park beach or trail
cannabis tourism in Michigan is one the rise and this image shows a red kayak in blue water  and the shore of Lake Michigan

It truly crimps your options, doesn’t it? Until more properties (hotels, motels and resorts) allow cannabis consumption, travelers will be challenged to find a place to consume. We wondered why this was the case.

“We have yet to see a community fully embrace cannabis; it’s still often held at arm’s length,” Andrew McFarlane from Michigan Cannabis Trail and Michigo said.

This disconnect is apparent where Michigan’s cannabis stores are most densely located and how they’re not embraced or even recognized by local visitor’s bureaus and Chamber of Commerce entities. 

You’d think Ann Arbor, Michigan’s historical epicenter of marijuana, would embrace the plant and stores in its geographical area—but that’s not the case. Unfortunately, it’s difficult for established organizations to change and adopt a formerly illegal substance.

“There are certainly a large group of people who still think that cannabis is a bad thing—and until they’re no longer in leadership positions, we’ll always have roadblocks,” Andrew said.

There’s no legal or ethical reason that a visitor’s bureau can’t list a cannabis business as a traveler’s destination. It’s a matter of will and desire.

Andrew also pointed out that the Visitor’s Bureau in Modesto, California, has its Motown CannaPass that people can register for, which unlocks information and cannabis-friendly businesses in the community. “It’s normalizing the cannabis experience and promoting community businesses—which they should be doing,” he said. 

He noted that at least seven licenses are in progress for cannabis consumption lounges in the state. However, none have opened as of early 2022. These lounges are bound to be a focal point for

For people traveling in Michigan who are looking for options when it comes to a consumption space, you’ll have to look carefully and plan accordingly. Finding a place to stay that is cool with cannabis is the first step—Michigan Cannabis Trail and Bud and Breakfast websites offer some options. 

cannabis tourism in Michigan involves the out of doors like this wooded trail with white birch trees and green pines.

Here’s something we found interesting—you can consume in a Michigan State Park, but not in public (see the campfire note above). So you can consume cannabis in your tent or camper. Of course, it’s not as cool as sitting around the fire or walking on the beach, but it’s something. 

If you’re in town for the annual Hash Bash in Ann Arbor on the first Saturday in April—that’s a fun spot to light up. In addition, organized cannabis events are popping up across Michigan. These licensed events allow consumption and have sales in the same place—usually with live music and other cannabis-centric activities. Expect to find them throughout the summer of 2022.

As you travel in Michigan, be discrete where you fire up, and you’ll be fine.

a glass you might use for a cannabis special event, it has a leaf made out of confetti in it

Ten Ways to Spark Your Cannabis Special Event

A cannabis special event is one of the best ways for a business to connect directly with customers. An event gives a business the opportunity to showcase a place, a new product or an idea. A special event can be used to celebrate an anniversary, a grand opening, an expansion, a national holiday like Independence or Veterans Day or the high holiday of 4/20. You don’t need an official reason for hosting an event, it’s all about getting to know your customers.

Organizing a cannabis special event can be time-consuming, there are real benefits.

  •      It builds customer loyalty.
  •      It builds brand awareness.
  •      It attracts new customers.
  •      It provides space to inform people on a subject or a product      
  •      It provides insight into your customers.
  •      It’s fun.

Putting together a cannabis special event for your business takes time and planning, but it’s worth it.

Outside of the ordinary planning points of a special event, we suggest paying attention to a few things that can truly make a difference to your attendees and the success of your special event.

  1. Choose your date and time carefully. Look at not only what’s happening in your community, but around the world. You don’t want to plan an event and have it fall on Rosh Hashanah, Good Friday, Super Bowl Sunday, the Michigan/Michigan State game day or Martin Luther King Day.
  2. Assign two point people to help “manage” the event. One is the host the other is the troubleshooter. Don’t have the host solving on the ground problems and don’t have the troubleshooter serve as the host. Your guests need attention as much as the problems do.
  3. Be fun, but be legal. Make sure that everything you do when it comespeople having fun at a cannabis special event to marijuana is compliant with local and state laws. You don’t want to do anything that would jeopardize your license, whether that is onsite consumption, giving away product or serving alcohol in your space.
  4. Give people something to do other than stand around. Whether it’s a game like corn hole (assuming you’re outdoors), building something like a jenga tower, a trivia game or even crayons to color on a table cover or provide a photo wall where they can take a selfie.
  5. Collect data on your guests while being a friendly host. When your guests check in, ask for their email and phone and for them to opt-in to your mailing or texting list. Ask them about their favorite way to consume cannabis and about the one thing they want you to carry that you don’t already have.
  6. Establish a hashtag for your event and post it where people can see it. Do your research to make sure it is unique and short. People will use it if they’re on social media and it will help you see what your visitors are saying.
  7. Door prizes, not raffles. Keep in mind that in most states a raffle requires a license, so don’t call your giveaway a raffle. People are pretty much happy to get anything free. Branded swag from your company, like a tee-shirt or a pint glass, is always a good option and big stickers, rolling papers and lighters are always welcome.
  8. Food is an essential part of any event—it should be simple, abundant food for a cannabis special eventand easy to eat. Keep in mind the time of your event, 5-7 PM is the dinner hour and people might expect heavier foods, 7-9 PM might lend itself to desserts and mid-afternoon is great for veggies, cheeses and crackers.  Keep in mind food preferences like vegetarians and allergies like gluten and provide options. Label your food and make sure your troubleshooter knows what’s in the food you’re serving. If you’re serving infused food make sure it’s clearly labeled with potency and that you’re not outside the law.
  9. Music is essential to setting the mood for your event and developing a playlist isn’t an easy task. Keep in mind your audience and the purpose and time of your event and use music that works to meet those goals. If you know someone who really knows music, ask that person to make suggestions for your mix. Using a paid subscription to a music service can provide a party mix without ads.
  10. Thank your attendees. With collected emails or phone numbers, you can send a quick note after the event and let them know how much you appreciated their attendance. It’s also a great time to offer a discount on something you’ve got in stock.

Need a hand with planning your next cannabis special event? Give us a shout and we’ll give you the help you need to make it perfect.

a marijuana leaf, symbolizing michigan marijuana legalization

Why Michigan Marijuana Legalization is The Next Big Thing

Finally! The Michigan Board of Canvassers approved the signatures to move adult-use marijuana legalization to the ballot in November. This isn’t unexpected, though it felt the board was dragging its feet on approving this—the petitions for Michigan marijuana legalization were turned in last November and just approved in April. BUT, we’re not whining—we’re winning.

This is a Very Big Deal For Ending Marijuana Prohibition And Here’s Why.

Michigan, next to California is the most populous state considering legalization. California has a population of 39.5 million people and Michigan has 9.9 million residents. Keep in mind none of the other legal recreational states have a population the size of Michigan. Colorado has 5.6 million people, Washington 7.4 million, Oregon 4.1 million, Nevada 2.9 million and Alaska 739,000 and on the eastern side of the US: Vermont 620,000, Maine 1.3 million, Washington, DC 693,000 and Massachusetts 6.8 million.

Despite being a cul-de-sac state, we’re close to a lot of big population states and cities. Chicago, which is less than an hour drive away from our border has more than 2.6 million residents; and Illinois has 12 million people, Indiana has 6.6 million people, Ohio has 11.6 million residents and Wisconsin has 5.7 million residents. Added up, it gives Michigan easy access to 62 million people—who live within a half-day or less drive to the state borders. We certainly don’t think that all 62 million will flood in, but if the data holds, 52 percent of that 62 million might just stop in and check out our new industry.

summer in Michigan, soon a be a legal marijuana state if michigan marijuana legalization passesAnother thing that sets Michigan apart from other states that have adult use cannabis is that we are a major tourist state. A four-season tourism state. Pure Michigan spends $35 million on persuading people to visit our pleasant peninsula. Cannabis will be just one more reason for people to visit Michigan. We’ve seen models of cannabis tourism in Colorado, and there’s no reason to think that Michigan entrepreneurs won’t cash in on this industry. 

Michigan will be the first Midwestern state to legalize marijuana for adult use. It’s part of the normalization of cannabis that we’re seeing spread across the US. We expect the east and west coasts to be the most progressive and to imagine that Michigan will be the 10th state to legalize, well, that’s pretty exciting. It puts us in a league with other cool places like California, Oregon, Washington and Vermont. It also speaks to the hard work and will of citizens, gathering 277,000 petition signatures is no small feat and MILegalize and the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol deserve thanks for making that happen.

Michigan Marijuana Legalization Won’t be Easy.

Michigan’s marijuana legalization effort won’t be without a fight. There have been state-wide legalization efforts, like Arizona, which went up in smoke due to the well-funded opposition. We should expect a battle here in Michigan, too. Fighting against legalization in Arizona was pharmaceutical maker Insys and Discount Tire. They successfully moved public opinion against legalization. We understand conservative politics in Michigan and there’s no reason to think that well-heeled people won’t put their money behind stopping this. Just as supporters in Michigan have the Drug Policy Alliance and NORML as allies, the opposition is ready for the fight.

image of a cannabis leaf symbolizing michigan marijuana legalizationWe have public opinion on our side. From big national surveys like Gallup and Pew Research Center to Michigan’s own Epic MRA, we know that people are generally in favor of legalizing. This change in opinion comes from a few things. Medical marijuana is a great place to start getting people oriented to the plant and its uses. More often than not, people know people who have used cannabis for treating and illness. Between women who are fighting breast cancer and the effect of chemotherapy; to adults and children with epilepsy and veterans who are using cannabis for PTSD—there’s a growing number of people with medical marijuana cards—in Michigan about 218,556 cards. It means in all likelihood you or someone you know is using cannabis for one of the allowable ailments.  The more people that are willing to talk about consuming cannabis for health reasons, the more ordinary it will become to the people around them.

Science is also on our side. As more credible research is done and data is shared, we’ll see people begin to believe what we’ve known for some time—that cannabis is a helpful and life-changing plant. The recent findings in JAMA that showed a reduction in opioid addiction in cannabis legal states is one data set that we can turn to.

The Future is Bright, But we Need Everyone to do These Three Things.

1. Arm yourself with the facts and educate your neighbors, family and friends about cannabis. We provide factual information on this website and on our Facebook and Twitter pages. Make sure your information is well-sourced, Leafly, High Times, The New York Times, CNN and Washington Post are great resources.

2. Support the cause with time and/or money. In Michigan, The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, MILegalize and Michigan NORML will need not only financial support but volunteer help. too. It’s important that each of us do something. If you have time, give it. If you have money, give some.

3. On November 6, 2018, you need to vote. You need to make sure no matter what is happening that day that you get to the polls and vote for Michigan marijuana legalization. Help people get to the polls if needed. Make sure everyone you know if registered to vote.

It will take all of us to give Michigan the number 10 spot in the US—it’s a spot we deserve.

marijuana stereotype, a person with a bong and a lot of flower

This will not stand. This marijuana stereotyping will not stand, man.

It’s hard to understand a stereotype until you see yourself as one. And for people in the cannabis business, we’ve got plenty of memorable stereotypes.

It begins with the 1936 film Reefer Madness where cannabis users were criminals and driven to sex and suicide by the plant. The marijuana stereotypes were dark and meant to frighten people. From all observations, the film financed by a church group was successful in continuing those stereotypes.reefer madness poster perpetuates marijuana stereotypes

The stereotypes of young people and black people as rabid cannabis users were perpetuated in the 1960s and 1970s and took a serious turn with President Richard Nixon who determined that anti-war protesters and blacks were working against his Vietnam War effort and marijuana was fueling the fire.

Recently, John Ehrlichman, Nixon’s domestic policy chief, said this: “We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or blacks, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course, we did.”  

This is how a stereotype becomes a profile. And we know the dangers of profiling.

Cheech and Chong’s 1978 movie, Up in Smoke is a classic stoner film that launched a series of pot-smoking comedies. It’s interesting though, that Reefer Madness was an anti-cannabis film and Up in Smoke portrayed marijuana as funny and harmless, yet both are enduring cultural entities that created and still perpetuate people’s views of the people who use cannabis.

marijuana user stereotype: the dudeOther films, including our inspiration for this blog title The Big Lebowski, Pineapple Express, anything with Harold and Kumar (and the list goes on) have helped further the stoner stereotype. You know, well, like, um The Dude, man.  People who use marijuana are lazy, forgetful, distracted, chill, unproductive and, almost always funny. Women often play secondary roles in cannabis films, usually as hot girlfriends of stoner dudes. Considering that 57 percent of women favor marijuana legalization and women comprise 36 percent of the leaders in cannabis, there seems to be some serious underrepresentation going on.

Late in 2017, the Netflix series, Disjointed was released. It’s a comedy about a female cannabis activist lawyer turned grower/medical dispensary owner. Her employees often partake on the job and they take their fashion cues from the 1960s and 70s. Right in the middle of medical and adult-use legalization in America, when cannabis is starting to gain some respect, we were faced with tired marijuana stereotypes. If you were to believe Disjointed, you’d think that medical marijuana dispensaries operate loose and fast with the law when it comes to checking IDs and smoking on site. People who work in medical cannabis are professionals and this scenario is far from the truth.

While Reefer Madness worked to make people fearful, Disjointed furthers the stereotypes of cannabis users and businesses in a way that doesn’t help our industry.

Here’s why marijuana stereotyping bothers us.

Cannabis is a serious business. It’s projected growth is expected to hit $21 billion by 2021. It is one of the most highly regulated industries in the US, even more so than pharmaceuticals and alcohol. People who want to operate cannabis businesses are subject to steep capitalization requirements, extensive police background checks and personal financial reviews.

We understand that Up in Smoke and Disjointed are fictional pieces. Humor and comedy are a great way to make people comfortable with something unfamiliar, but at this point in time, it doesn’t engender confidence in patients, those people who need cannabis for medicinal purposes. People with epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, those needing to alleviate the effects of chemotherapy or to lessen the trauma of PTSD count on marijuana medicine. The persona of red-eyed, slow-talking, smiling stoners growing or selling your meds needs to go!

A new picture of cannabis users and business owners is evolving and while we love The Dude, he’s a charming relic of our past.

the dude, a stereotype of a marijuana user

On This Veterans Day, Thank a Vet for Cannabis Advocacy

Veterans are leading the fight to bring recognition to medical marijuana as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other combat-related injuries. It’s been a long slog, thanks in part to cannabis being a Schedule I prohibited drug. As more veterans are using medical marijuana to relieve their symptoms and veteran’s groups are becoming cannabis advocates, we want to acknowledge their leadership.

Earlier in November, the American Legion, which has been advocating for cannabis research for several years, held a press conference in Washington D.C. to help move the issue forward. It wants further research and for Veterans Administration (VA) physicians to be able to speak freely about medical marijuana. The Legion, which has photo of combat fatigues and a St. Michael patchmore than 13,000 Posts across the United States recently polled its members and found that an astounding 92 percent of its members want more research on cannabis and 82 percent favor outright legalization. The Legion is also asking Congress “to amend legislation to remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act and reclassify it, at a minimum, as a drug with potential medical value.”

How Cannabis Helps with PTSD

Part of what they are seeking is further research on a link between the symptoms of PTSD: inability to sleep, nightmares and hyperarousal (reaction to sounds and images) and cannabis in decreasing those symptoms. The heart of the issue is there have not been any large-scale, controlled studies regarding this connection, specifically. Studies on lab animals show evidence that cannabis and cannabinoids can help prevent the effects of stress on memory and emotion, two of the markers of PTSD. The anti-anxiety effect of certain strains of cannabis can also help with removing deep seeded traumatic fear.

One Veteran’s Cannabis Story

Further, cannabis shows promise for veterans (and others) with traumatic brain injuries. In a moving op-ed piece in the New York Times, Thomas James Brennan, a Marine veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, writes about how cannabis saved him, moving him from a cocktail of prescription drugs that required more pills and higher dosages that became ineffective as time passed. A friend gave him a joint and urged him to smoke it before bed.

I hesitated to light it up because I’d always bought into the theory of weed as a “gateway drug.” But after a few tokes, I stretched out and fell asleep. I slept 10 hours instead of my usual five or six. I woke up feeling energized and well-rested. I didn’t have nightmares or remember tossing or turning throughout the night, as I usually did,” he wrote.

While marijuana isn’t for all veterans, it worked well for Brennan. “If I hadn’t begun self-medicating with it, I would have killed myself… it’s the only thing that takes the sharpest edges off my symptoms. Because of cannabis, I’m more hopeful, less woeful,” he said.

The anecdotal evidence is mounting. Many war veterans are advocating for additional research and making marijuana an option through the Veteran’s Administration healthcare system. At present, even though the VA acknowledges that veterans use cannabis and its physicians can discuss use with patients, they are prohibited from helping a veteran complete paperwork to obtain a medical marijuana card or recommending it. We hope this changes.

On this Veterans Day, thank the veterans in your community not only for their service but for helping move the cause of cannabis normalization forward.

Marijuana and the Opioid Crisis: Five Things You Should Know

One thing is certain: Marijuana won’t kill you. Unlike opioid painkillers, there’s no chance of a fatal overdose. So, when the efficacy of cannabis is proving to stop pain, why are physicians still prescribing opioids? Why are opioids so crazy addictive? How does marijuana help people break their addiction to opioids?

We explored the topic and learned a few things.

1. How Opioids Work

To understand why cannabis might be a good alternative to opioids, you have to understand the profound pleasure that these drugs bring a patient. Dr. Scott Bienenfeld, an addiction psychiatrist writes that heroin, morphine, oxycodone and other drugs like it, stimulate the opioid system in the brain. The drugs cause a sense of extreme numbing, sedation and bliss at a level beyond the normal pleasure we receive from food or sex. A deadly side effect is respiratory depression. “Opiates kill you in overdose by cutting off the brain’s sense that it needs oxygen, thus the reflex to breathe is cut off and people die of respiratory failure,” said Bienenfeld.

Using marijuana while going through opioid withdrawal, stimulates cannabinoid receptors in the brain. The THC in cannabis offers mild psychedelic effects, as well as a sense of calmness, some paranoia/anxiety and hunger which can alleviate the symptoms of withdrawal.

2. There’s a Lack of Scientific Research About Cannabis

It’s important for the public to have scientific research regarding their medicine—it’s about safety, side effects and effectiveness.  So why is there so little research about cannabis and pain? Since 1972, when marijuana was deemed dangerous and of no health benefit by the Nixon administration, research came to a standstill.  

For scientists who want to research cannabis the application process begins with the Drug Enforcement Administration. Approval of the license can take several years and the only marijuana that is allowed to use for research is from a farm at the University of Mississippi. This small and insular growing operation makes it difficult to do large strain comparisons and find what works. Earlier this month, Jeff Sessions, the U.S. attorney general showed his bias toward cannabis research with this comment when asked by Orrin Hatch about the licensing scientific research facilities. “So I think it would be healthy to have some more competition in the supply, but I don’t—I’m sure we don’t need 26 new suppliers.”

3. Physicians are Unsure About How to Prescribe Cannabis

According to an article by Daniel Clauw, M.D. at the University of Michigan, the lack of research and testing gives physicians reservation about recommending cannabis for patients. Unlike other medications, which come with well-documented literature, cannabis is void of dosages and other patient information. Research is key for normalizing cannabis in the medical profession.

4. How Marijuana Helps Kick Opioid Addiction

There are a few things that marijuana does in helping people who are using or abusing opioids. Foremost, it (marijuana) treats chronic pain—which is what opioids are less effective in doing. It can be used to treat acute pain, which opioids are more effective for. But due to over prescribing and patient demands, the pills are given for chronic pain, too. And that’s when addiction begins. There are studies with cannabis showing success in treating both kinds of pain. There are people that want to avoid using opioids totally and are using marijuana as an alternative from the start of pain treatment.

5. In States Where Marijuana is Legal, Opioid Deaths are Lower

The scholarly journal, Drug and Alcohol Dependence reviewed and analyzed hospital records from 1997 to 2014 in 27 states, nine of which have legalized medical marijuana. During that timeframe, the researchers from the University of California, San Diego found that found the hospitalization of people suffering from opioid abuse and/or addiction dropped on average 23 percent in states that offered medical marijuana. Opioid overdose cases at hospitals in states with legal cannabis also dropped by an average of 13 percent, the study said. The findings show that fears of legal medical marijuana pushing hospitalizations upward were unsupported. This is the fifth study on this subject.

We expect as time goes on, physicians will demand more valid research on medical marijuana. Have you ever discussed it with your doctor? If not, what’s holding you back?  

reefer madness poster perpetuates marijuana stereotypes

We’ll Help With Your Marijuana Marketing and Propaganda

Yes, marketing and propaganda. That’s what was written on the LARA checklist for applicants seeking a marijuana business license in Michigan. Under the Step 2: License Specific Application Checklist, Business Specifications there is a box to check: Copy of Marketing Plan (advertising, propaganda, etc).

Marketing plans, we’re all about creating those. Advertising, we’re pros at it. We’ll get the word out about your medical marijuana business.

But propaganda, etc. Let’s talk about that for a minute.

MMFL Application Checklist
MMFL Application Checklist

Propaganda. What does it remind you of? Perhaps Adolf Hitler and the propaganda campaigns that came from his Ministry of Propaganda and Enlightenment. The Catholic Church used the word first in 1622 when it determined it would go forth into the world and begin converting people to its faith. The American government put resources in getting citizens fired up for the World War II effort, too. And we can’t forget Reefer Madness and all of that anti-cannabis propaganda that is part of our history.

The Latin root of propaganda is from propagate or spread.

definition of the word propagandaPropaganda is a word that’s generally negative; it’s about a single point of view, is meant to be persuasive and is often biased and misleading. It’s not a word that is used often or lightly. Synonyms for propaganda include: disinformation, hype, evangelism, brainwashing, inculcation, publicity, newspeak and hogwash. That’s not the work that we do at Canna Communication and we wonder why LARA chose this specific word for its checklist for licensees.

There are two things about propaganda to be considered. First is the intention of propaganda, the second are the tools of propaganda. The tools and intentions are mixed when they’re discussed, but they’re really two different things.

The intention of propaganda is to strongly persuade people to think or behave in a certain way. The tools of propaganda are still the tools of communication today, advertising, signage, posters, fliers, videos and news stories. New to the toolbox is the internet and social media.

Fake news is the new propaganda.

Canna Communication wants to help people understand the properties and power of medicinal marijuana. We want to promote good cannabis growing practices, show how high-quality edibles are made and safely consumed and we’re all about the use of the plant by interested adults. We don’t think using propaganda techniques is what licensing is about—we’re not forcing the use of cannabis on an unsuspecting public. We’re about honest communication, listening to the public and creating great content that attracts customers.

We’re ready to help you create your marketing plan for licensing and your company’s future growth. When it comes to propaganda though, we’ll choose the words more carefully.

Tami VandenBerg Appointed to MI Legalize Board

We were thrilled to help our friend, Tami VandenBerg, announce this great news today. We’d like to extend our congrats to Tami on this appointment. We know that she will do great things in this new capacity.

Grand Rapids community activist and business owner Tami VandenBerg was recently appointed to the Board of Directors of MI Legalize, a political organization that aims to end cannabis prohibition in Michigan. Presently MI Legalize is leading a coalition that is circulating petitions for adult-use cannabis in Michigan.

Vandenberg is well known for her outspoken views regarding cannabis and helped create the successful campaign that decriminalized marijuana in the City of Grand Rapids in 2012. In addition to her cannabis activism, she is the co-owner (with her brother) of two successful businesses—The Meanwhile and The Pyramid Scheme. She also serves as the executive director of Well House, a nonprofit that provides permanent housing for people who have been homeless. She is a former Board Chair of The Red Project in Grand Rapids.

“There is a startling amount of money spent on cannabis prohibition—millions in Michigan and billions across the United States and the ROI is dismal. It’s time to end prohibition and spend our tax dollars in a more productive manner,” said VandenBerg.

“When I was a social worker, maybe 15 years ago, I was trying to help a woman find housing and a job— and the more we talked the more I understood that it was just a small marijuana infraction that stood between her and having a place to live and finding meaningful work. She also shared with me that her three brothers were incarcerated for marijuana possession and it had torn their family apart. It was obvious to me then, that marijuana laws were applied differently to people of color and that still exists today,” VandenBerg said. According to the ACLU black people in Kent County are 7 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.

“Tami brings an entrepreneurial lens, experience and a passion for fundraising. She understands how to run a persuasive campaign and her ability to organize and engage in outreach especially in West Michigan is critical to the statewide presence of this campaign. Her leadership qualities add to the strength of MI Legalize as we build a diverse unity coalition to succeed at the ballot. We’re pleased to have her joining us,” said Jeffrey Hank, chair of the MI Legalize Board of Directors.

In addition to her work, VandenBerg has been the recipient of numerous awards including: six years on Grand Rapids Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 list and four times on the publication’s 50 Most Influential Women list. She is the 2017 distinguished alumnus for the 40 Under 40 Award. She has been honored with awards from the American Institute of Architects, Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and the West Michigan Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, and YNPN, Young Nonprofit Professionals Network. Well House has also won numerous community awards for its work.

marijuana legalization in Michigan is approved by voters cannabis flowers like this one pictured will be legal to purchase by people 21 and older

What’s in a Marijuana Strain Name? Looking at a Sticky Situation.

A recent trademark lawsuit started us thinking about marijuana strain names.

an image of a gorillaYou might have read about a settled lawsuit between the makers of Gorilla Glue—an Ohio-based adhesive maker and GG Strains, the grower and marketer of the popular marijuana strain Gorilla Glue #4. The adhesive-maker sued the strain-maker for trademark infringement. In the settlement, the strain-maker agreed to stop using the name Gorilla Glue and refrain from all references in its branding. The strain-maker estimates that the re-branding will cost the company about $250,000, on the upside, the adhesive-maker did not seek monetary damages.

There are possibly more than 5,000 different cannabis strain names, and growers are creating new genetic mixes on a regular basis. The process involves taking the best attributes of one strain and using the male pollen to fertilize a female plant with equally strong attributes and using those seeds to grow a new strain. Obviously, with starting from seed, it takes a few months before the strain can be deemed successful or not. That’s how new strains are created, named and brought to market. This is also how we find interestingly named strains like Big Buddha Cheese and Atomic Northern Lights.  Strain names are derived from plant attributes—scents, color and stickiness as well as the effect it has on the user. Some are named for people and their personalities—Obama Kush—for the President. This indica-dominant hybrid is known for being energizing and invigorating, it’s for making change!

Some strain names, though, can be puzzling, or frightening to new cannabis users. Consider Durban Poison or Green Crack.  While their attributes are solid, the names are less so. There’s been a movement toward changing strain names, or dropping them altogether making them more reflective of their generic cannabinoid profiles. This makes sense, because when tested, two strains though named the same, are rarely genetically identical.

Imagine buying Bayer Aspirin in Denver and having it be different than Bayer Aspirin purchased in Detroit.

As cannabis grows, expands and is tested, a more exacting science will be required. Marijuana is medicine and consistency and quality are vital to people’s health.

Are strain names important beyond identifying the genetics of a plant?  Does a name like Super Silver Sour Diesel Haze help or hurt how people view cannabis? Does it matter to patients?

The best comparison we can draw is commercial pharmaceuticals. Drugs have some pretty curious names—think about Nexium, Xanax, Lunesta or Viagra. For the most part, the chemical formulation names of drugs are long and confusing, so pharma marketers create names that generally have some of the chemical formulation in it and sometimes just sound good.  

Are drug names much better or different than cannabis strain names?

Maybe they’re less obvious and created to exude confidence, rather than concern.

As the cannabis industry evolves and regulation becomes more rigorous, it might be that our familiar strain names will disappear and become part of cannabis lore like Mexican brick weed.

Maybe that’s not so bad.