(Watch for this story Monday morning on WZZM TV 13) There are now more cannabis workers than police officers in Michigan.
According to Leafly’s 2021 Jobs Report, there are a total of 18,078 cannabis jobs in Michigan, with 9,216 of those added in 2020. That is compared to 16,220 police officers in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics May 2020 occupational employment estimates.
While Michigan doubled its legal cannabis workforce in a single year, diversity in the emerging industry still is lacking. To combat this, Grand Rapids-based cannabis company Fluresh – known for enduring efforts to embed equity in cannabis business – opened applications for its inaugural incubator program in December 2020, with eligibility open to any individual who is a legal resident of Michigan and 21 years of age or older as of Jan. 1, 2021.
The inaugural 2021 class of the Fluresh Accelerator program was selected to include a diverse group, with more than 80% of the selected participants being Black, indigenous or people of color (BIPOC).
The Fluresh Accelerator collaborates with community partners, educators and governmental agencies to create an end-to-end curriculum that will develop the next leaders in the industry.
The curriculum includes focus areas including state and local licensure; entrepreneurship; finance, cultivation and processing; retail operations; environmental sustainability; marketing and more, all aimed to give participants the arsenal to grow their own cannabis businesses upon completion of the program.
The first session took place on Feb. 26 as an introduction to the Fluresh team and an overarching orientation of what to expect throughout the program’s curriculum, where the participants first met each other to kick off their journey together in the accelerator.
“Everyone sees the parts of our company that are finished, but we took our participants through the parts that weren’t finished,” said Denavvia Mojet, corporate impact strategist and legal compliance manager for Fluresh. “We brought in the owners of the construction company that does work for us to talk to them – our head of cultivation, our CEO, our attorney – they got to meet all those folks and ask questions and take notes right out the gate.”
Upcoming sessions will continue through fall 2021.
In total, four businesses and three entrepreneurs made up the first cohort. Mojet said the participants were selected for the amount of impact the incubator could provide based on what they were asking. Participants included emerging businesses, entrepreneurs hoping to start their business and professionals looking simply to acquire knowledge of the cannabis industry for their own career paths.
“It was a really hard decision in the applications process,” Mojet said. “Our original plan was to pick five, but I think this is better, because we want to keep it small. We want to keep it intimate … it works because some of them are in groups that have similar endeavors.”
The inaugural Fluresh Accelerator participants were:
Morgan Underwood and Mary Sherman are female caregivers and cultivators for GanjaGirl MI who are interested in creating a business that serves those disproportionately affected by the war on drugs. They are Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MMRA) social-equity certified and taking strides to launch their cannabis business cultivating reliable products, equitable opportunities and promoting cannabis as a way of life.
Wormies Vermicompost is a Latino-owned company committed to the sustainable future of local Michigan communities. Fluresh Accelerator participants Luis Chen and Chandler Michalsk are interested in ingraining their business in the cannabis community to see how they can provide enriched soil mixes, utilizing their composting processes, to provide sustainable solutions for cannabis growers.
Ciarra Adkins, owner of Aqume Enterprises, is a Michigan attorney and consultant (Aqume Law/Aqume Consulting) and is interested in growing her knowledge of the cannabis industry to better serve the communities she works in, having first-hand experience in witnessing the devastating, generational effects of the war on drugs. Adkins’ work in the community also extends to her position as an equity analyst for the city of Grand Rapids, a member of the Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency Racial Equity Workgroup and as a municipal worker.
is a locally run business known for its vegetable and fruit carving bouquets. Fluresh Accelerator participants Jessica Austin and Domonric Gray are interested in gaining valuable industry knowledge on how it can infuse cannabis into its fruit and vegetable creative offerings.
Hills is a Grand Rapids native, community leader and recreational cultivator interested in expanding his family’s agriculture business, based in Mecosta County. His goals in cannabis are ultimately to earn a Commercial Cultivation license to grow cannabis on the family’s land. Hills also works at the city of Grand Rapids and believes that learning the industry can enhance his regulatory lens for people in the city.
Tyler is a Grand Rapids native with a passion for chemistry, compliance and community. She joined the Fluresh Accelerator to learn about the pathways to securing a testing lab and to find ways that her family’s southeast side properties can be leveraged for new cannabis opportunities.
Gonzalez is a longtime Grand Rapidian and cannabis aficionado who has navigated the industry, even through challenging encounters with the law, to establish himself as a respected former dispensary operator and medical qualifying clinic investor. Through the Fluresh Accelerator, Gonzalez is gaining his first look behind the veil of regulated commercial operations and gaining the knowledge to reemerge in the regulated industry leveraging his wealth of knowledge and experience.
The more Fluresh learned about the participants, the more it realized the need for a network that supports similar programs in the future, Mojet said. Everyone who participates may not want to be another Fluresh when they reach success, and there are other players in the cannabis industry they can benefit from.
“Our hope is that those operators choose to value this as well, see initiatives like these as a part of, not generating more competition in the industry, but truly creating more collaboration for themselves,” Mojet said.