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The Racial Equity Advisory Workgroup formed last July within Michigan’s Marijuana Regulatory Agency is promoting legislation focused on increasing cannabis ownership in the state by Blacks and Latinos beyond the state’s current six percent.
Ahead of any potential new legislation, Grand Rapids-based cannabis operator Fluresh is investing in minority entrepreneurs operating in cannabis industries through its newly formed 10-member business accelerator program.
“When it comes to commercial cannabis,” explains Fluresh Legal Compliance Manager Denavvia Mojet, “entrepreneurs are looking to get into a high-risk investment without any bridge back. The policy coming down from the cities to the operators will be geared toward how we can foster a more inclusive market.”
While it is difficult for aspiring entrepreneurs to obtain zoning approval to operate cannabis businesses in Grand Rapids, The Fluresh Accelerator attracts an array of professionals looking to apply their skills to the burgeoning industry.
“The poop out of the worm has a huge amount of benefits to the plant,” said Luis Chen, who with his partner Chandler Michalsk run Wormies Vermicompost, which feeds yard waste to worms to develop fertilizer.
Developing their cannabis business practices within a 230-person organization that operates two cultivation facilities and one provisioning center offered the Wormies partners unique exposure to a developing market.
“With this opportunity we are able to see first-hand how we can really serve the industry,” Michalsk said. “We can see what they do with the waste and the biomass after every cycle and that whole process of how they manage the cannabis base.”
Fluresh Accelerator member Jessica Austin of Creative Carvings hopes to learn how to infuse THC into her company’s locally famous chocolate-dipped strawberries.
“We get a lot of business selling our fruit and vegetable bouquets at carnivals and fairs to people who can’t eat gluten,” Austin explained. “I saw what Flourish was doing with Michigan residents. I think in two or three years we can have a facility where we can use the chocolate in our activities.”
Morgan Underwood of GangaGirl MI is a longtime medical marijuana caretaker who began working in provisioning centers a decade ago. To date unable to obtain a license to sell or grow cannabis commercially, Underwood values the opportunity of “being associated with a huge name” as she develops methods to create cannabis products and market their brands.
“I know how difficult it is for women, particularly women of color, to gain ownership in the industry, she said, adding that her ultimate personal goal is to start another business accelerator for future industry aspirants.
Fluresh Accelerator manager Mojet in 2019 founded the Black & Grown Cannabis Guild advocacy group while serving as a consultant to medical marijuana companies in the state. She said advocating for criminal expungement for those convicted of cannabis possession drew her to the industry.
When Fluresh came calling for her expertise and commitment to the cause, she was ready to roll.
“It’s about exhibiting leadership around what we all should be doing,” she said.