ESCANABA – After a long and difficult road to understanding new legislation and working hard to meet every regulation, cannabis dispensaries are starting to flourish in Escanaba. This new industrial growth is changing the dynamics of the city and creating curiosity among residents and tourists alike.
Michigan’s Ordinance and Taxation Act was passed in 2018, but it took time for individual municipalities to decide how to enact certain laws. Recognizing the importance of listening to the community, the Escanaba Planning Commission has held several meetings to incorporate public input into administrative considerations.
Now that the shops are here and there is no shortage of customers, some may wonder: Who buys marijuana?
Although the five dispensaries in the area all have a slightly different vibe, each reports a clientele from all walks of life and all ages, with plenty of out-of-state traffic on weekends. Wacky Jack’s, located on US 2 in Nahma, sees many customers age 60 and older, said manager Amanda Riggers. “Many are old smokers, but some are new. The new ones are fun, because you get to have your say on what’s cool,” Riggers said. An informative poster on the wall behind the counter of CBD tinctures, which claims to provide relief without the high, names the active ingredients and their respective properties and therapeutic applications.
Kylie Schmidt, general manager of Elevated Exotics in downtown Escanaba, says she is passionate about providing honest and accurate information. “The more we can educate people, the more curious they become, and the more questions they come back with, and I think that’s what we encourage the most.”
Transparency is important, she added, and only sell high-quality, unadulterated produce. She explained that some companies may use a redaction process and are not required by law to disclose that information. “When you fix it, it destroys the cell walls and destroys the terpene content, which is very important if you use cannabis medicinally.”
There are different benefits of different terpenes, the levels in each species are different.
This belief in providing information to all is consistent across all businesses, and “blockers” must go through background checks and a training process in the state of Michigan. The current industry has moved away from the pre-legalization of marijuana, when people grew the plant in backyards and garages and sold it on the street.
Amy Connor, manager of Lume, said: “It’s a tried and tested product…
Lume, which was the first Escanaba dispensary and will be open starting in January 2021, is currently drive-thru only, but they spend as much time as necessary for each customer. Assistant manager Imali Kivioja says it’s common for new customers to drive by who have never used cannabis, and say something along the lines of, “‘I want you to talk to me about these 20 different products and explain what they are.’ What helps my knee pain, what helps me sleep at night, and what makes me smile and laugh at the campfire with my friends?
While Lume, a Michigan chain that brings back customers through deals and referral programs, and a bright, upscale storefront with plenty of foot traffic, both report high numbers of repeat local shoppers, the fire station and casino at Island Resort are attractive to visitors. While they enjoy a mixed bag of customers, regional manager Marsha Moffett describes it as a tourist attraction. She has seen many different types of people walk through the doors, from tourists to residents. Sometimes she’s a grandmother looking for relief from aches and pains, but they wander away from the casino to spend most of their winnings.
Now that the cannabis boom has brought more dispensaries to the area, with an equal amount still in the planning stages (stuck on meeting requirements for special land use permits, state approvals, etc.), some members of the public wonder if? Market saturation is a concern for these new businesses. But none of the representatives who spoke to this article seemed worried. All are optimistic about the future growth of the industry. At Nirvana, Escanaba’s newest dispensary, which opened just two weeks ago in the old Cycli building on Lincoln Street, manager Ray Cripeau reports the chain from Arizona has been warmly welcomed. “Everyone was really supportive, we’re really excited that we’re getting a lot of variety here as opposed to one or two similar shops. They are very excited about the new product.
And at Elevated Exotics, co-owner Neal Davis says their first location in Republic, which opened a year ago Thursday, is bringing in impressive revenue, and the Escanaba location, which has been around for two months in Ludington, is even more popular.
Of course, the long-term impact of the industry’s presence remains to be seen. Visitors to Escanaba — especially from Wisconsin, where cannabis is still illegal — visit, but many stay for the weekend and support other local businesses.
Ed Legault, executive director of the Delta County Economic Development Alliance, predicts the area will see a more mature market in five years. “The true economic impact of cannabis dispensaries in Delta County is too new to accurately measure right now.” Legault added that the municipality can expect to receive an adult marijuana payment from the Michigan Department of the Treasury based on the number of dispensaries in the area.
Delta County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Vicki Michew said the two new businesses recently joined the chamber. Noting that contact with them has been limited so far, she says, “I believe they will take advantage of the many benefits we offer to our 700 or so council members.”