By Anthony Sabatella
With the High Times Cannabis Cup making its debut in Detroit last weekend, nothing but excitement and marijuana smoke filled the air as tens of thousands of people, ranging from cannabis aficionados to curious community members, packed into the rustic Russell Industrial Center to see what the smell was all about. Hoping to take down a coveted Cannabis Cup from one of the most iconic cannabis brands, some of the best cultivators submitted their finest cannabis to be tested and judged by those lucky enough to taste their samples. With supreme product around every corner, patients and recreational users alike looked to find some souvenirs to bring home and show off to their friends. That is – if they had anything left to take home. The Cannabis Cup and other consumption events always tend to bring together old friends for a great reunion weekend.
Unfortunately, somewhere in the middle of all the haze and fog, these events tend to forget to concentrate on the most important factor of the event, their paying customers and local businesses supporting them. While the model has worked for decades and many great growers have more than earned their fair share of cannabis hardware, one must look at the total impact that these out of state shows do to the local community. With some patients waiting in the line that wrapped around the derelict venue for 3-4 hours, one must think that efficiency and operations could be improved with a consumer first approach. Thankfully, the cannabis community came out with smiles, patience, and enough green goodness to make the wait worthwhile.
This brings the Michigan cannabis consumer to a crossroad – do we continue to blindly support those that come into our state, take our hard-earned dollars, and leave quicker than they arrive, or do we begin to value and entrust in the brands, businesses, and people that have invested in our local communities? Alternatively, we have the option to also invest in ourselves and open our own personal grow opportunity or can put our trust in a caregiver to provide our medicine. All these options for cannabis can be confusing to the Average Joe who can often be left vulnerable and potentially taken advantage of without having a solid knowledge base of what their best bet is before making a purchase.
While no attendee can deny, High Times knows how to put on a show. Bringing out local talent such as Willy J. Peso and Detroit’s own, Trick Trick, fans vibe along to the music of some of their hometown idols and legends. Regrettably, not all cannabis industry members could not be in attendance. Due to the hyper sensitive licensing process for marijuana companies in Michigan, many familiar brands were advised to stay clear of the event.
So, who’s right? The West Coast brand who openly allows a free market sales atmosphere of untested cannabis product by anyone with enough cash to rent an overpriced fold up table for the weekend? The Midwest brands toeing the line and maintaining full product testing and complete compliance with state laws and selling exclusively through the commercial market? What about those hard nosed and green thumbed enough to grow their own medicine and do not worry about the consumerism and commercialism of a plant that has been around for ages? Or the consumer who could care less where it came from, but more where it will get them? What if I told you they were all right? Because they are.
“This is quite an evolutionary period when it comes to cannabis in Michigan” says Justin Palmatier, Head Consultant at Lake Effect Provisioning Center. Justin has been a long-time participant in the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act and has extended that community service into operating a licensed provisioning center in Portage, Michigan. Justin replies “We have a black market, grey market, and commercial cannabis market in action all at once, and the consumer gets to choose which model(s) win.” Ultimately, there are 3 consistent factors the cannabis consumer takes into consideration when deciding to make a purchase: product price, product quality, and the overall trust they have in their source. With this responsibility in the consumers’ hands and most of the product supply in the hands of caregivers and home grows, these two groups will conduct much of the Michigan market commerce however they feel fit no matter what the commercial market says until they reach allocative efficiency.
With that said, let the commercial market explode, let whoever throw the show of someone’s lifetime, create your own memories by growing your own and everything in between. Just because there are pros and cons to every model, doesn’t mean they do not serve their purpose. Because if happy patrons have a great selection of cannabis to choose from, there will always be sunny skies and bloodshot eyes here in the Mitten of Midwest Medicine.