From seed to sale: Marijuana industry ‘growing’ in Western Michigan

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LAKE COUNTY – Lake, Mecosta, and Osceola counties have become “fertile ground” for companies and entrepreneurs interested in the marijuana industry.

Since Michigan voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2018, several grow facilities and provisioning centers have been, or are in the process of being, established in the tri-county area.

In Lake County one grow facility and one retail marijuana establishment are currently operating, while two additional grow facilities and two additional retail establishments are in the works.

CCG Holdings Group, LLC., a grow facility that recently began operations in Webber Township, started the process of applying for licensing and getting approvals for their facility in 2018, owner Dan Reynolds said.

“We have been operating for a couple of months,” Reynolds said. “It took a long time to get through the state licensing and the background checks. We went through the pre-approval process making sure we were the kind of people they wanted in the industry, and while we were waiting on that, the state changed the rules, so we had to go through the process again.”

CCG Holdings Group, LLC. is a state licensed grower and cultivator for medical marijuana, he said, but are in the process of getting approved for adult use recreational as well.

“What we grow is hand crafted premium cannabis primarily for smoking, so it is going to smell nice, look amazing and taste great,” Reynolds said. “We have a specific strain that we will get to the medical and adult use recreational market.”

Currently, they hold a Class A license which allows for 500 plants, with plans to add an additional 500 plants when they are approved for the Class B adult use recreational growers license in the next two to three weeks, he said.

“We do not do any processing at this facility,” Reynolds said. “We hold three more adult use permits for growing in Webber Township that have been approved locally and are looking at building another facility with processing built into it and possibly doing an outdoor cultivation facility, if the township allows it.”

He added, Webber Township officials have been great to work with, and have done everything they can to bring the industry to the area.

“There are things popping up all over Lake County, so I think it is going to be in the business plans for a lot of people in the future,” Reynolds said. “There is still a lot of room for growth, so I think you’re going to see a lot of opportunity in Lake County.”

Reynolds added, they wanted to bring cannabis to Western Michigan because it has been an area where it has been frowned upon.

“Even though 60% of voters were in favor of it, it still has a stigma,” he said. “Everybody was afraid all this crime was going to come in, but in reality, it is just the opposite. It keeps the black market away, which is the criminal element.

“If we can keep that away and get some revenue for the state and the local economy, that’s a win-win,” he added. “I live in this area, and for me to be able to bring this industry to Western Michigan is a great opportunity.”

CCG Holdings Group, LLC. currently employs three people that are going through the process of growing out the plants and getting them large enough to flower, Reynolds said.

“Once we add our next 500 plants and are up and running full time, we are looking at adding seven to 10 full time and part time positions,” he said. “We are planning a job fair where we can meet some local people interested in the industry.”

Steve and Audrey Dominique, local Baldwin business owners, were quick to get into the business, as well.

In January, they opened the first medical marijuana provisioning center in Baldwin, converting part of their Pure Michigan Solutions store into Green Door Baldwin provisioning center.

In July, they added adult use recreational marijuana.

The Dominiques are now in the process of establishing a second provisioning center on Forman Road in Pleasant Plains Township and have tentatively begun the process of establishing a grow facility on that same property.

“We plan to open our second provisioning center this year,” Audrey Dominque said. “The grow facility will probably be a year or two down the road.”

The plan is to apply for licensing from the state for a Class C medical and recreational license, and possibly include a processing facility, as well, she said.

“We have 20 acres, so there is room to grow if there is a need,” Dominque said. “The advantage to having your own grow facility would be mostly financial. You wouldn’t have to pay a transporter, so there would be some savings and our products would cost less for the consumer.

“In addition, knowing your own product would be an advantage,” she said. “Knowing how everything is done from start to finish in that product helps ensure the quality.”

Dominque said they currently get their products from a lot of different suppliers, and they have a grow facility in Bangor that they purchase a lot of product from.

“When we can’t get it from them, we outsource to other places,” she said. “Right now, there are a lot of different vendors that we use.”

Green Door Baldwin currently employs around eight people. The new provisioning center will provide an additional eight jobs, and the new grow facility is expected to add another 10 to 12 local jobs, Dominque said.

Another company is also establishing themselves in the Pleasant Plains marijuana industry.

Care By Design, Inc., is currently building a provisioning center, Fresh Water Cannabis Co., on M-37 in Baldwin.

They are building from the ground up and expect to have the facility completed and open for business by the end of the year.

“The facility will have a provisionary center for the sale of medical marijuana and related products, and expansion into recreational is forthcoming,” company spokesperson Richard Hogg said.

The company also has plans to establish a growing and processing facility soon after the provisionary center is completed, he said.

They are applying for a Class A license, which is for 500 plants, with plans to possibly expand on that at some future date.

Hogg said the advantage to having their own growing and processing facility will enable them to become more sustainable as a business and will offer more quality control over the products they offer their customers.

Although they do not have an exact number, Hogg said, they will be hiring employees on the grow side, budtenders at the provisioning center, security for all the facilities, store managers and maintenance personnel, as well as various other positions.

They chose the Baldwin, and the Pleasant Plains Township area because they saw the community as strong, close knit, caring and understanding, he said.

“We love the township, the community, and the people within it,” Hogg said. “The community culture is similar to our work culture. We are contribution oriented and strive to add to the community.”

In addition, he said, they hope to partner with the community through their foundation, Fresh Water Foundation, to support and maintain lakes and streams in the area.

Hogg said they do not have any current plans to expand further but are always looking for opportunities and ways to form healthy partnerships with local communities.

With all the current activity taking place in the marijuana industry, some feel that the market is becoming over saturated.

Reynolds, however, said that he did not feel like the industry is becoming oversaturated, but rather felt like there was still room to grow the industry throughout the area.

“The thought is that the cream will rise to the top and the customer will win in the end,” Reynolds said. “It will bring the prices down and the medical patient will win because you will get the best of the best. It just comes down to who is the best and who provides the best service.

“There is still a lot of room for growth, so I think you are going to see a lot of opportunity for Lake County as far as bringing jobs and money to the area,” he said.

A booming industry

As more cities and townships approved resolutions to opt in to the medical and adult use recreational marijuana industry, more companies came knocking on the door with plans to establish provisioning centers, as well as growing and processing facilities.

In April 2018, Lume Cannabis Company opened a growing and processing facility in Evart, in Osceola County. Now, after a year in operation, the company is in the process of expanding their facility.

They were recently approved for a Class C grow license and an excess grower license.

Lume owns eight Class C cultivation licenses – three for medical and five for adult use, Marlon Mallas, general manager of cultivation, said. In addition, they hold medical and adult use processing licenses.

One major benefit the marijuana industry brings to the community is the creation of jobs. Lume’s cultivation facility currently employs over 140 people, Mallas said, including growers that tend to the plants, trimmers, packagers, harvesters, lab techs, administrative personnel and facilities personnel.

“We have people as young as 21, as well as people in their 70s,” Mallas said. “People of all ages love to work around these beautiful plants. Some positions require no experience at all, while other more advanced positions like our grow team require a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge.”

Lume recently broke ground on the expansion of the Evart facility, which once complete, is expected to create an additional 170 jobs.

“Our plan is to continue expanding here as long as the municipality allows for more licenses and growth,” Mallas said.

Lume also has a provisioning center in Evart. Once known as Lit, it now carries the Lume Cannabis Company name. The facility, originally medical-only, was one of the first to begin offering adult use recreational products in December 2019.

In March 2020, the company opened a provisioning center in downtown Big Rapids, which offers medical and adult use recreational marijuana products.

Lume’s cultivation facility in Evart grows, cultivates and processes medical and adult use recreational products for the provisioning centers in Evart and Big Rapids, as well as nine other provisioning centers around the state, Mallas said.

“All Lume flower is cultivated in Evart, and all of our pre-rolled products are produced here,” he said. “Lume edibles are produced off-site, but the THC used to make them is derived from the flower that we grow.”

Mallas said it is important to control the process “from seed to sale” and that is the advantage of having a grow facility, as well as the processing centers.

“We take pride in having the best and cleanest product in the market,” Mallas said. “Vertical integration in this market is always more beneficial financially, as well. Relieving the burden of cost from a third party allows us to focus our resources on producing the highest quality of product.”

New kids on the block

In addition to Lume Cannabis Company, there are currently two other provisioning centers open in Big Rapids – Premiere Provisions and KKind, with two additional retail locations to open by the end of the year – Mother Nutures and Lake Life Farms.

Premier Provisioning Center, a medical and adult use recreational marijuana retail store located at 714 Perry Avenue, opened in June.

Owner Kenneth Bryant said they currently get their product supply from vendors throughout the state, but are looking to establish their own 1,500 plant facility.

“We are looking around to see what area would be best for that,” Bryant said. “Big Rapids looks like they would be a great area to do this, but we are also looking at Chase in Lake County and in Marquette.”

Bryant added that they would like to have the facility up and running in 2021, but that will depend on how much of a build out they will need to do.

“The advantage of having that would mean that we would always be able to control the strains that are in our store,” Bryant said. “The purchase price will be much better, also, and we can offer our customers better deals with the products we grow ourselves.”

The next step in the process would be to establish their own processing facility, he said.

“After we get the grow facility going, we would definitely want a processing facility so that we could be completely vertically integrated,” Bryant said.

In the meantime, he said, they would contract with facilities that are up and running and would agree to process their products.

“They would actually process our own strain, and we would be comfortable putting our name on the product because it is produced with our own flower,” he said.

Bryant said they were attracted to the Big Rapids area because they had connections with a Ferris State University student that was very knowledgeable about the area and really wanted to break the stigma associated with the industry.

“He thought being in a college town would be really good where we could piggyback off of some of the student organizations and help break the stigma,” he said. “In addition, the city government has been very helpful in the process. They welcomed us and really wanted us to get going. The city government and the university were both influential in our decision to come here.”

KKind is an adult use recreational provisioning center located at 846 S. State St. The retail location opened in June.

The company has a growing and processing facility in Kalamazoo that supplies all their flower, and recently launched a line of vape products as well, general manager Joe Keck said.

“Other than that, we use an array of different suppliers,” he said. “We like to have products from all spectrums of the industry and have a greater variety that we can offer our customers.”

Keck said they chose to locate in Big Rapids because two of their employees at the Kalamazoo facility went to FSU and recommended the area.

“We have been very well received by the community and love being part of Big Rapids,” he said. “It is an awesome municipality.”

They currently do not have any plans to expand their footprint in the Big Rapids area, he said, but if the demand is there, another facility is always a possibility.

Industry continues to grow

Mother Nurtures, located at 520 S. Third Avenue, will be a medical marijuana retail store initially, with plans to move into the adult use recreational market in the future.

According to owner Shaun Barsic, what will set Mother Nurtures apart from other marijuana dispensaries is the setup. Rather than being an open showroom where purchases are made, their operations will more resemble a visit to the doctor’s office.

“We believe our patient consulting rooms will translate to a certain demographic that is looking for a couple of things – a one on one consultation with no one else in the room to discuss their medical issues privately and the attention of the patient care consultant,” Barsic said.

They plan to also provide private consultations with a medical professional for patients looking to procure a medical marijuana card.

They plan to look at local growers and processors for the products they stock, Barsic said, but will look for the best quality products available.

Barsic said Big Rapids has been very welcoming legislatively, and they hope to become an integral part of the community.

Lake Life Farms, a medical and adult use recreational retail store located at 208 S. Michigan Avenue, in downtown Big Rapids is planning a grand opening this week, as well.

“We are fortunate to be in the downtown area and we have really great neighbors,” general manager Evan Carver said. “We are excited to be part of the community.”

Carver said that Lake Life Farms operates its own grow facility out of Dimondale, near Lansing, but the Big Rapids storefront is the company’s first retail establishment.

Although they will initially be selling products from other growers, Carver said within a few months they will be selling products developed from their own plants at the Dimondale facility.

Carver said despite Big Rapids seeing a recent influx of marijuana retail businesses, they are hoping to create a unique experience for people.

In addition to the many retail establishment s popping up in the area, Michigan Pipe Dreams, LLC. is in the process of establishing a growing and processing facility in the Big Rapids industrial district.

The company received approval of a special use permit from the city planning commission on Nov. 18, which will now go to the city commission for approval.

The project will require renovation of the interior of the building and is expected to take four to six months to complete, owner Kimberly Yob said.

“With the COIVD-19 pandemic, it has been more difficult to have an exact timeline, but we are hoping to be on a four to six month timeline,” Yob said.

“A lot will depend on approvals from the city, as well,” she added. “We are waiting on approval of our application, which will give us permission to move ahead with the build out. Once the facility is ready, we will need approval of our permit to operate.”

The company is applying for a Class C adult use grow license and an adult use and medical processing license.

Yob said they do not currently have plans to establish a provisioning center but will be reaching out to the local stores to stock their products.

“As of right now, we are putting all of our efforts into the grow and processing center, but if we do decide to open a retail location, Big Rapids would naturally be our first choice,” she said.

“Supporting other businesses in the community is our first goal,” she continued. “My partners and I are very excited to enter into the cannabis space with a grow and processing facility. Our growers and processors have many years of experience and we are excited to bring their expertise to the Michigan market.

“Big Rapids being centrally located in West Michigan is a great location for our business,” she said. “Also, being a university community, we feel it is a great opportunity for working with students that may want to enter into this industry.”

Once up and running, the facility is expected to provide around 11 new jobs. Yob said they will be looking for employees that are “interested in starting a new career in a rapidly growing industry.”

Cathie Crew