Michigan Cannabis Regulator Plans Crackdown on Illicit Products

The top cannabis regulator in Michigan said Tuesday that the state is planning to “expose” businesses operating in the legal marijuana market that have engaged in illicit practices and sold illegal products.

The Detroit News reported that Brian Hanna, the acting director of the Michigan Cannabis Regulatory Agency, told assembled media that “the agency is planning actions that will expose bad actors and serve as a warning to other regulated businesses.”

“If there’s anybody cutting corners or cheating, we want to expose that and take a strong enforcement approach on that,” Hanna told reporters, as quoted by the Detroit News.

The publication reported that some of the issues the regulatory agency intends to address are “proper tagging and registering of marijuana products in the statewide system and proper maintenance of required cameras — both requirements that, if abandoned, allow for a proliferation of illegal weed in regulated facilities and snarl state efforts to identify it.”

Hanna, who took over as acting director of the agency in September following the resignation of Andrew Brisbo in August, told reporters on Tuesday that “his focus over the first 90 days as acting director is to engage stakeholders to better understand what’s working in the industry and what isn’t, and to crack down on illicit cannabis products in the market, including marijunana that is grown and processed in other states,” according to the Detroit News. He also said that the “the department is hiring six new regulatory agents, two inspectors, two analysts and a laboratory specialist, is planning more unannounced inspections and is taking a second look at the department’s current operating procedures as it emerges from the pandemic, when the agency had pulled back much of its field staff.”

Michigan voters legalized recreational cannabis use when they approved a ballot measure in 2018. Adult-use marijuana sales began in late 2019. 

Earlier this year, the state consolidated the regulatory bodies overseeing the the processing and distribution of cannabis there, which resulted in the newly created Cannabis Regulatory Agency. 

Prior to the restructuring, hemp was regulated by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), while the Marijuana Regulatory Agency handled cannabis.

Now, the Cannabis Regulatory Agency oversees both.

“Consolidating multiple government functions into the newly named Cannabis Regulatory Agency will help us continue growing our economy and creating jobs,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in announcing the changes in February. “And to be blunt-safe, legal cannabis entrepreneurship, farming and consumption helps us put Michiganders first by directing the large windfall of tax revenue from this new industry to make bigger, bolder investments in local schools, roads, and first responders.” 

Earlier this month, the Cannabis Regulatory Agency issued a 30-day suspension of a marijuana retailer in Detroit, after it conducted “an unannounced compliance visit at the licensed provisioning center and observed multiple bags, backpacks, and duffle bags of suspected marijuana products that did not have the tracking identification numbers assigned by the statewide monitoring system (METRC) attached.”

After advising the retailer to “not to sell or destroy the untagged products until the investigation was completed and until guidance was given,” regulators returned “to the provisioning center facility and inquired about the untagged marijuana products,” only to discover that the remaining untagged products had been destroyed. 

“The Cannabis Regulatory Agency has a legal responsibility to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public,” said agency spokesman David Harns. “Our licensees must follow all of the rules and laws that govern the cannabis industry. Untagged marijuana products and the inability to provide video footage is simply unacceptable.”

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Cash Only’s 420 Recs: Zoë Ligon, Sex Educator

This article was originally published on Cash Only. Sign up for the newsletter here and follow Cash Only on Instagram and Twitter.

Cash Only’s 420 Recs is an ongoing series where interesting folks offer recommendations for all things 420 — what strains they like, what weed products are blowing their minds, and what they like to do once stoned.

Thank the Dionysian ganja gods, Zoë Ligon is here to talk weed.

The writer, artist, peer sex educator, and founder of Spectrum Boutique (the coolest adult toy store in the U.S., sans-doubt) is one of the preeminent voices when it comes to sexuality and sexual education. And damn does she make a complicated topic fun.

Take one look at her Instagram, and it’s clear that Zoë has mastered a balance of silliness and seriousness when discussing everything from innovative adult toys and particular kinks, to practicing consent and advocating for mental health awareness. Tough act, but that’s why Z is the reigning queen of “dinks.”

We also highly recommend Carnal Knowledge: Sex Education You Didn’t Get in School, the book she co-authored with the brilliant Liz Renstrom, which absolutely should be taught in schools!!!

Zoë is a longtime friend of the admins here at Cash Only, and we’re grateful that she’s always down to clown and answer some interview questions. Below, the titan of toys, the master of masturbators, discusses her preference for weed that’s below 20% THC, absurdist films that all start with the letter F, and a dream blunt rotation featuring all her dead relatives who she’s never met. Enjoy!

Courtesy of Zoë Ligon

Do you have a current favorite weed strain? How do you like to consume it?

Zoë Ligon: These days I smoke the weakest weed I can find. I go into dispensaries and say, “Give me your mildest stuff” and they say, “Wow no one ever asks us that.” Then they scramble around to see if anything meets that criteria. I smoke almost daily, and going for a 10% THC strain is good for my soul and sanity. I love the act of smoking itself, and if I smoke more than a hit of any strain with more than 20% THC I am TOASTED and out of commission. Is this what getting older feels like? Anyway, I smoke joints and even though I can roll them myself they are way better when my boyfriend is rolling them for me. My holy grail strain is Jesus Christ OG x Jillybean, which I found 7 years ago in Michigan and haven’t encountered since.

Do you have any favorite weed products — any particular papers, grinders, or whatever?

Big shoutout to BIC lighters. We always lose them and go for BBQ lighters, but I guess BIC also makes those so, thanks BIC! Also just weed lube as an entire category of product. Brands differ depending on locality, but I have never met a weed lube I didn’t like. Gummies have also been good to me, especially because I like giving my lungs a break when I can.

Courtesy of Zoë Ligon

What activity do you like to do after you’ve gotten stoned?

Pinball is great when you’re stoned. You might think pinball is a stressful game, however, it is very relaxing to watch the little ball ping around. I also love to mountain bike, and find that I manage to fall less often when I’m biking stoned. I’m not particularly good at it or coordinated, but the sensory experience is just divine! Finally, stretching. Not in a “class” or anything, but some passive floor stretching is fucking orgasmic when high.

Can you recommend something to watch after smoking?

Windy City Heat is my favorite underrated movie. It’s basically a Comedy Central TV documentary where some comedians prank their friend Perry into thinking he has been cast as the lead actor in a film, but the whole thing is just a prank. It’s okay, he is an asshole and he deserves it, so you can laugh at his expense comfortably. Here are more dumb and absurdist movies you should be stoned for: Fungicide, Funky Forest, Freaked, Final Flesh. I didn’t intend for those to all start with the letter F, it just happened. Aside from that, Thu Tran’s Food Party — also starts with F! ~Do not~ watch The Cat in the Hat, Foodfight! or Boss Baby, while stoned. Please, I’m begging you… Be careful.

Courtesy of Zoe Ligon

What do you like to listen to after smoking? Any albums, radio shows, or podcasts?

TANGERINE DREAM! Aphex Twin… lol. Terry Riley. Plantasia! Insane Clown Posse if I’m driving around the beautiful state of Michigan. Spooky podcasts like Knifepoint Horror — the writer/host has one of my favorite voices and it rocks me to sleep like a little baby.

Can you recommend something to read when you’re high?

I don’t believe in ghosts or spirits or anything like that, but I do love reading about “haunted” places and (not haunted) ghost towns in Michigan. I will also always love creepypastas. (Can you tell I hate books?) I also love reading weird manga, even though I am relatively new to the genre. Juni Ito anything, but I recently read all of the Alice in Borderland manga and really loved it.

Who’s in your dream blunt rotation?

An assortment of dead relatives I’ve never met so that I can interrogate them about why our family is so weird once I get them baked enough. Also, Elmo can be there.

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New Lawsuit Challenges Adult-Use Ordinance in Detroit

A lawsuit filed on Sept. 28 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan claims that the city’s adult-use cannabis ordinance is unfair to longstanding city residents. The lawsuit comes from plaintiffs Arden Kassab, who owns multiple medical cannabis dispensaries in Detroit, and PharmaCo.

In June 2021, a lawsuit concluded with an opinion from U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman stating that the city of Detroit’s process of obtaining an adult-use cannabis license was “unconstitutional” and “gives an unfair, irrational and likely unconstitutional advantage to long-term Detroit residents over all other applicants.” The most recent lawsuit claims that “…Detroit has essentially rebranded the ‘legacy’ program’ as a ‘social equity’ program.”

The result of that case caused a delay in the processing of recreational cannabis applications, and the city revised the rules later that year in November 2021.

However, the newest lawsuit claims that the revised ordinance did not solve the problems. “While Detroit alleges that its new cannabis ordinance cures the constitutional deficiencies found by Judge Friedman, the … (ordinance) remains ‘far more protectionist than it is equitable,’” the new lawsuit states, quoting Judge Friedman’s original statement from 2021.

According to the Detroit Free Press, one example was provided to illustrate the issues with the ordinance in its current form. Plaintiff Arden Kassab lived in Pontiac for “many years,” which is an area that is both negatively affected by the War on Drugs, and they also have a cannabis conviction. However, Kassab no longer lives in Pontiac and no longer qualifies under the current rules.

Similarly, plaintiff PharmaCo (a subsidiary of Red White & Bloom) can’t currently obtain a recreational license because “it must divest itself of substantial real property or business ownership interests in order to obtain social-equity points needed to compete,” the Detroit Free Press states.

The revised ordinance set aside half of the licenses to be reserved for “equity applicants,” such as those who are current residents in the city, as well as those who live in specific areas of Michigan that have higher cannabis convictions, and also where 20% of the population lives below the poverty line, according to federal standards. Previously, the ordinance reserved half of the licenses for “legacy Detroiters,” or people who have been residents in Detroit for a specific amount of time.

Although Michigan legalized recreational cannabis in November 2018, the city of Detroit didn’t approve adult-use sales until November 2020. The first lawsuit arrived less than one year later in June, followed by the revision release in November 2021. The ordinance took effect in April 2022, but in May a new lawsuit (from House of Dank) emerged to address concerns about conflicts with state law. Another lawsuit (from JARS Cannabis) arrived in June claiming that the ordinance violated state law.

By August, both of the lawsuits were dismissed. On Aug. 30, Wayne County Judge Leslie Kim Smith wrote in an opinion stating that the ordinance was fair. “Although the city’s 2022 marijuana ordinance is a complicated scheme, it is unambiguous and provides a fair licensing process, which comports with the mandates of the MRTMA [Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act],” Smith wrote.

Applications for adult-use licenses opened on Sept. 1, 2022 and closes on Oct. 8. In a statement, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan expressed his confidence in the ordinance. “We are going to make sure there is equity in this process for Detroiters.”

Likewise, City Council President Pro Tem James Tate told CBS News Detroit in early September that the process has been lengthy, but the ordinance is fair. “Getting to this point has been an overly protracted process dating back to 2020 when the first ordinance was unanimously approved by Detroit City Council,” said Tate. “Now with the lawsuits and the failed ballot initiatives seeking to overturn our ordinance behind us, Detroiters and other equity applicants will have a fair opportunity to compete for adult-use licenses in a city that welcomes all to participate in the multi-million-dollar adult-use cannabis industry.”

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Michigan State Police Stop Cannabis Blood Tests

The Michigan State Police recently halted the testing of blood for the presence of THC, citing possible false positive results caused by the presence of CBD in samples. Officials have also alerted county prosecutors across the state to the discrepancy, warning them that they shouldn’t rely on the lab’s test results regarding cannabis blood tests as evidence in pending cases, according to Michigan State Police spokeswoman Shanon Banner.

The pause in laboratory analysis of THC will be in place indefinitely “as we work to learn more and/or until we can institute another validated method of testing to ensure accuracy,” Banner said in an email to the Associated Press.

On August 25, Cheri L. Bruinsma, the executive director of the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, sent an email to county prosecutors to inform them of the pause in THC testing at the Michigan State Police’s crime lab.

“We were alerted by the MSP Crime Lab that there is likely an issue with toxicology screens for blood tests for marijuana results,” Bruinsma wrote in the message quoted by MLive. “They very recently learned that the test is unable to distinguish between THC and CBD. They’re working to understand the issue and scope of the problem. They expect to have additional information in the next few weeks. In the meantime, if you have a case that relies on a THC toxicology screening, you should not rely on that result.”

Michigan voters legalized the medicinal use of marijuana in 2008, followed by the approval of a ballot measure to legalize adult-use cannabis in 2018. While driving under the influence of cannabis remains against the law, unlike many states, Michigan doesn’t have a limit for blood THC concentration. In 2019, a commission on impaired driving that included the head of the Michigan State Police recommended against creating a THC limit because of a “poor correlation” between bodily content and driving impairment. However, prosecutors are still permitted to present such evidence in court, according to defense attorney Mike Nichols.

“Somebody gets pulled over and there’s an accident where someone is hurt or killed,” he said. “It’s been a bigger deal since we went medical in 2008. I get more and more cases.”

A History of Unreliable Lab Test Results

The problem with cannabis blood tests revealed this week isn’t the first time the reliability of the state police’s laboratory when used for marijuana blood testing has been called into question. Travis Copenhaver, a partner at the cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg’s Michigan office, says that there “have been concerns over the unreliability of MSP crime lab’s THC toxicology screening for several years now.”

“This seems to be a pattern. In 2015, controversy arose over the testing of synthetic THC, and the fact that their methods have issues differentiating between THC and CBD,” Copenhaver wrote in an email to Cannabis Now. “It’s my understanding that county prosecutors have started notifying the defense bar and judges advising that the crime lab’s THC toxicology screenings are unreliable. Now that Michigan has recognized the legal use of both THC and CBD, this shot across the bow will help MSP bring its testing capabilities into the modern era.”

Even when the laboratory tests return valid results, Copenhaver agrees with the 2019 commission’s assessment that using THC concentration as evidence of impairment is problematic.

“Studies continue to show that THC levels aren’t an accurate means of measuring intoxication. While it would be great to have testing similar to roadside alcohol testing, the fact of the matter is that THC and alcohol intoxication are very different,” he said. “THC doesn’t lend itself to the kind of testing models that law enforcement rely on to police alcohol levels. Driving under the influence of THC is still a significant concern, however, [but] not as significant as driving while drunk.”

Prosecutions for Impaired Driving Called Into Question

It’s unknown how many pending cases the lab testing discrepancy will affect. Michael Komorn, an attorney specializing in criminal defense and cannabis law, said that evidence of THC in blood tests is frequently used to prosecute driving offenses, especially in cases where no alcohol was detected. Depending on how long the lab has been experiencing discrepancies in testing, he noted, thousands of past cases that have ended in convictions and perhaps jail time could be called into question. He’d like to see a full investigation of the state police’s crime lab and the THC testing debacle and has called for the creation of an independent lab without connections to the department.

“I think that it’s time to get a new lab,” Komorn said. “Because the procedures and protocols that are being used here to measure cannabis blood tests , if they’re wrong and unscientific—and they’ve been convicting people wrongly because their tests are wrong—I think a criminal investigation should be opened. I think people should be held accountable.”

The post Michigan State Police Stop Cannabis Blood Tests appeared first on Cannabis Now.

Applications for Recreational Cannabis Licenses Open in Detroit

Two lawsuits filed in Michigan earlier this year challenged the recreational cannabis ordinance in Detroit. However, the lawsuits have now been ruled on, and the city can proceed with recreational cannabis license applications.

One lawsuit was originally filed by House of Dank (which owns four dispensaries) in May, and argued against the ordinance’s rule that prevents medical cannabis dispensaries from applying for a recreational cannabis dispensary license until 2027.

Wayne County Judge Leslie Kim Smith on Aug. 30, who presided over House of Dank v. City of Detroit, wrote about the ruling in his opinion. “Although the city’s 2022 marijuana ordinance is a complicated scheme, it is unambiguous and provides a fair licensing process, which comports with the mandates of the MRTMA [Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act],” Smith stated.

Additionally, Detroit City Spokesperson John Roach said that “the law department is reviewing the recent rulings and we will know more about the licensing process and application timeline in the next couple of days,” according to the Detroit Free Press.

Detroit’s first round of recreational applications were set to begin on Aug. 1, but Judge Smith issued a restraining order that prevented Detroit city officials from proceeding.

The second lawsuit was issued on June 3 by JARS Cannabis, which owns two dispensaries in Detroit, and more throughout the state. The lawsuit claimed that it violates state law, and presented issues with the city’s scoring system.

Recreational cannabis sales began in Michigan in December 2019, but the city of Detroit didn’t introduce its ordinance to allow recreational cannabis sales until November 2020. Now with the resolution of the two lawsuits that were putting the plans on hold, those who want to apply for a license to operate a dispensary, microbusiness, or consumption lounge, can do so as of Sept. 1.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan spoke at a press conference on Aug. 30, explaining how the last two years of litigation has slowed Detroit’s progress. He described medical cannabis being “controlled by wealthy folks who don’t live in the city, and Detroiters have not benefited from it. Since the beginning, Councilman [James] Tate has said we want recreational marijuana businesses in the city but not if that means Detroiters are going to be excluded.”

Duggan also expressed his confidence that the system is fair. “Everyone is entitled to apply tomorrow but we are going to make sure there is equity,” Duggan said

Registration is open between Sept. 1 and Oct. 1 through homegrowndetroit.org. During the first phase, 60 licenses are available (40 dispensaries, consumption lounges, and 10 microbusinesses. Half of these licenses will be awarded to social equity applicants, which are individuals who either living in “any community where marijuana-related convictions are greater than the state of Michigan median and where 20% or more of the population is living below the poverty line.”

Later on, 100 more retail licenses, 30 consumption lounge licenses, and 30 microbusiness licenses will become available, spread out in three phases.

Councilman James Tate was also at the press event. “The city’s 2022 marijuana ordinance is unambiguous and provides a fair licensing scheme,” Tate said, reading out a portion of the opinion written by Judge Smith.

In his own words, Tate also spoke about the future of cannabis in Detroit. “I am excited that we are on the verge of having Detroiters and other equity applicants having a fair process that will allow them to participate in this multimillion-dollar industry. It is complicated, it is challenging, but it is now possible and that’s the beauty of this fight.”

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Kevin Nash To Debut Strain on Dispensary Tour in Michigan

Seasoned pro wrestler and NWO co-founder Kevin Nash is going full throttle into the cannabis industry by launching his own strain, with the expertise of the cultivators behind HYMAN Cannabis.

Nash’s new strain and collaboration was first announced at the GCW Notorious show, E Wrestling News and Wrestling Headlines reported last January. You can hear Nash talk about the new endeavor on his podcast, KLIQ This.

Jackknife, (Creamsicle x Soñando) his signature strain, is the result of narrowing down some of HYMAN‘s marquee genetics. Soñando has a citrus, orange, and berry flavor profile, and Creamsicle tastes exactly how you’d expect it to. HYMAN’s Head Cultivator Rabid Hippie oversees the Michigan-based cultivator’s 30,000 square feet of canopy space.

Nash is notorious for his own versions of the jackknife maneuver. In his heyday, Nash perfected the “Jackknife Powerbomb,” an enhanced version of a powerbomb that sees the opponent thrown forward and then down—one way to finish the job. But all of the physical strain that goes into wrestling takes its toll, and that’s where cannabis comes in.

“My signature move: Jackknife Power Bomb, my finishing maneuver, is fitting for my strain partnership with HYMAN cannabis as I feel it accurately represents the strength and potency of the flower,” Nash tells High Times. “When you’re being Jackknifed, you’re not in control over the situation.

“Turning my pain into passion, I have become very familiar with cannabis and the one thing I find to be most important is quality,” Nash adds. “HYMAN cultivators have achieved a level of quality that is like nothing else I’ve tried—everything HYMAN does is by design and I am excited to hear what fans think when they try it.” 

Six-time world champion, five as the WCW World Heavyweight Champion and one as the WWF Champion, as well as 12-time world tag team champion, Nash has taken home some 21 or so championships during his tenure in pro wrestling.

Courtesy of HYMAN Cannabis

You may have seen Nash in films like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Magic Mike, John Wick, Rock of Ages, Longest Yard, and Punisher (2004). Nash also played D1 college basketball for the Tennessee Volunteers. Later, he joined the Army after watching the movie Stripes. He was honorably discharged, leading him to go back into basketball until a “career-ending” knee injury finished off his professional athletic career.

Nash will be making appearances at select Michigan dispensaries, so you can try the Jackknife, or get an autograph. The two-day signing tour will make stops at the following Michigan dispensaries:

Friday, September 2
URB Monroe 11:00 am – 12:00 pm 
JARS River Rouge 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm 
Bazonzoes Walled Lake 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm 
PUFF Utica 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm 
Dispo Romeo 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm

Saturday, September 3
Cloud Utica 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm 
Joyology Centerline 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm 
JARS Centerline 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm 
House of Dank Centerline 4:30 pm – 5:30 pm
PUFF Madison Heights 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

The Jackknife strain drops in Michigan on Friday, September 2, and will be available in a 3.5G Pre-Pack (Eighth) and 1G Handcraft (Glass Tip Joint) in select dispensaries.

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Chris Webber Launches New Strains With ‘Players Only’

NBA Hall of Famer Chris Webber announced the launch of his cannabis brand Players Only with his business partner, Lavetta Willis—and he’s bringing several familiar faces along for the ride including Quavo, Raekwon, Royce da 5’9″, Matt Barnes, and Jason Williams.

The new all-star brand was first announced on August 11. Players Only will feature an array of strains, cannabis oil cartridges, pre-rolls, vapes, as well as sport recovery and performance products. Players Only will also roll out branded apparel and footwear.

Last March, TerrAscend secured exclusive retail rights for Players Only products in Michigan through the acquisition of Gage Growth Corp, securing the way for the brand to drop.

“Players Only is more than a cannabis brand—it’s a lifestyle brand,” Webber said. “We truly have a unique opportunity to change the narrative around cannabis, empower rising entrepreneurs and set a new standard in this growing industry. We’re thrilled to launch our versatile offerings and begin the process of creating meaningful economic change in communities across Michigan. Shout out to TerrAscend and Gage—our Michigan family. Much love to Cookies and Berner, let’s go!”

In October of last year, Webber unveiled a cannabis facility in Detroit complete with a cultivation facility, dispensary, and private consumption lounge. The 180,000 square foot Players Only facility was named the Webber Wellness Compound.

The first strains to roll out include C4, Time Out, and G.O.A.T.’s Milk, as well as Non-Laters and Whipped Cherries. Later on, the brand will roll out additional strains including Blueberry Hotcakes and Ray Jackson’s Black Sox within weeks. While C4 can give off a hashy, Afghani-like appeal, G.O.A.T.’s Milk leans more sativa with a balanced amount of THC and CBD, according to reviewers. Whipped Cherries, on the other hand, tastes exactly how you’d expect it to.

“We have been working with legacy cultivators and operators seeking to establish their place in the regulated market for quite some time,” said Lavetta Willis, co-founder and President of Players Only. “The opportunity to incorporate legacy strains and expertise into the Players Only platform and menu furthers our goal of uplifting black entrepreneurs who have been building brands and intellectual properties for decades.”

The brand also announced a partnership with Raekwon from Wu-Tang Clan to launch Compliments of the Chef and his partnership with Citizen Grown. Another collaboration involves Hassim Robinson and Winner’s Circle Genetics, to bring the PB&J strain as well as Quavo’s BIRKINZ to Michigan’s cannabis market. Detroit’s legacy brand “Lil Stupid” will also launch for the first time in the adult-use market while Detroit’s own Royce da 5’9″ will roll-out his “Heaven” brand as part of an NFT. Webber’s former Sacramento Kings teammate Jason Williams will also unveil the White Chocolate strain.

Webber recently appointed Matt Barnes, former NBA star and teammate, as Chief Collaborations Officer while launching “The Smoke” with his partner and co-host, Stephen Jackson. The offering’s name is a nod to Barnes’ and Jackson’s award-winning SHOWTIME series, “All The Smoke.”

The “All the Smoke” podcast features “the brash and unapologetic NBA champions, delivers authentic, unfiltered perspective on the most polarizing topics in and around the game of basketball, including culture, social justice, politics, music and more.”

Episodes of “All the Smoke” drop each Thursday.

The launch of the brand will kick off with a limited edition brand collaboration with the Players Only x Packwoods 2.5-gram Blunt, which will be available in select stores. Learn more at the Players Only website.

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Michigan’s Top Cannabis Regulator Stepping Down

The official overseeing Michigan’s cannabis regulatory arm who has helped shape the state’s nascent recreational pot market is leaving his post.

Andrew Brisbo, who has served as executive director of the Michigan Cannabis Regulatory Agency since 2019, will be leaving the role to take a new position at the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, the Detroit Free Press reported on Tuesday.

A spokesperson for Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer confirmed the moves to the Free Press.

“We are proud of the incredible team at the Cannabis Regulatory Agency for establishing Michigan as one of the top cannabis markets in the country,” Bobby Leddy, a spokesperson for the governor, told the newspaper in a statement.

Brisbo has led the agency since its inception. In 2019, as the state prepared for the launch of the recreational pot market, Whitmer consolidated the state’s regulation of cannabis under one singular entity: the Cannabis Regulatory Agency.

Brisbo was appointed to head the new agency after previously serving as director of the Bureau of Marijuana Regulation, which the CRA replaced.

“Andrew will be critical in determining and achieving solutions as we develop new marijuana regulations in Michigan,” Whitmer said in a statement at the time, as quoted by the Detroit Free Press. “He brings a wealth of expert knowledge on this subject, which will be essential through this implementation process while protecting Michigan residents.”  

Michigan voters legalized medical cannabis in 2008; ten years later, they did the same for recreational pot use.

As the Free Press reported in 2019, Whitmer created the singular regulatory agency “to better coordinate the medical marijuana market…with the adult-use recreational,” which launched in early 2020.

The agency was renamed from the Marijuana Regulatory Agency to the Cannabis Regulatory Agency in February and was charged with the task of regulating “the processing, distribution, and sale of both hemp and marijuana going forward.”

“Consolidating multiple government functions into the newly named Cannabis Regulatory Agency will help us continue growing our economy and creating jobs,” Whitmer, a Democrat, said in a statement at the time. “And to be blunt-safe, legal cannabis entrepreneurship, farming and consumption helps us put Michiganders first by directing the large windfall of tax revenue from this new industry to make bigger, bolder investments in local schools, roads, and first responders.”

Whitmer’s office said the restructuring, which came via the governor’s executive order, would “allow for a more effective, efficient administration and enforcement of Michigan laws regulating cannabis in all its forms.”

Whatever the agency’s been called, it’s been Brisbo in charge, and Michigan’s recreational cannabis industry has been a roaring success.

“Under Brisbo’s leadership, Michigan’s recreational cannabis industry rapidly expanded,” the Free Press reported on Tuesday.

A report last year found that Michigan had seen more jobs added to its cannabis industry than any other state that has legalized pot. The report from Leafly found that the state’s regulated weed market had 18,000 jobs at the time.

The Free Press reported this week that Leddy, Whitmer’s spokesperson, said that Michigan’s adult-use cannabis industry has led to the “creation of more than 20,000 jobs in the cannabis industry and the generation of $500 million in tax revenue.”

“There are now more cannabis workers than cops in Michigan,” Leafly said in its report last year. “In a state known for its auto industry, the number of cannabis workers is now roughly equal to the number of auto repair mechanics.”

But the Free Press noted that the still-young industry has experienced “growing pains” in recent months. Although “sales and cannabis businesses in the state have continued to increase,” the Free Press reported, “the price of marijuana flower has dropped, pinching profits for many companies, with some laying off staff or closing their operations entirely.”

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Honoring the Legacy of Michigan Advocate Zahra Abbas

The cannabis community suffers great losses in the passing of its community members, but today it is with great regret that we report the passing of Michigan cannabis advocate and political activist, Zahra Abbas, who was 35 years old.

The Cannabis Caucus of the Michigan Democratic Party for which she held the position of Chair announced her passing on July 28. “Without Zahra the Cannabis Caucus would not be what it is today and the world is a lonelier place without her presence,” the Caucus wrote online. “Our deepest condolences to her family and friends. We know she touched many all across this great state and beyond.”

Abbas was a prominent figure advocating for cannabis as a patient herself, and sought to spread the word about cannabis and its medical benefits. “Zahra was dedicated to teaching the world about the health benefits of cannabis and helping lead the progressive movement action to remedy the catastrophic consequences of the war on drugs,” the post continued. “Zahra was frequently failed by our healthcare system and cannabis prohibition that would at times deny her the only medicine that could bring her seizures under control.”

Detroit’s Metro Times reported on Zahra’s passing, describing an interview they conducted with her in 2017. At the time, she suffered from daily seizures that were not solved through brain surgery or prescription medication—but cannabis was a game changer for her.

“As soon as I started it, within a few days my seizures stopped,” Abbas told Metro Times in 2017. “Before I started looking into it for epilepsy I was very much against marijuana because there was so much misinformation around it. It came to the choice between using that and having another brain surgery to control my seizures. … Turning to cannabis was kind of my last resort.”

She volunteered to gather signatures for the legalization ballot that appeared before voters in 2018, in hopes that others could utilize cannabis just as she did. “I’m doing this because I think more people should have access to cannabis because it helps all people,” she told Metro Times. “It should be everybody’s right to use it,” she added.

But her journey into the cannabis industry had only just begun. Her advocacy grew, and she later became Vice Chair and, later, Chair of the Cannabis Caucus, and also Vice president of the Detroit chapter of Motor City NORML. She had an instrumental role in commuting the sentence of Michael Thompson, a man convicted of a cannabis crime who had survived 60 years in prison.

Fellow advocate Jamie Lowell told Metro Times that at one point, Abbas had to quit cannabis in order to pass a drug test for a new job, but her seizures returned. “She soon had a major seizure and vowed to not quit again for anything,” Lowell said. “After resuming, she was again seizure-free. This was her powerful and amazing testimony.”

Speakers at a rally featuring Sen. Bernie Sanders, which was held in Pontiac, Michigan on July 29, took a moment to honor Abbas’s memory. Rep. Rashida Tlaib called Abbas “an incredible warrior.” “Her heart was full of love for community, and there wasn’t a cause that she did not take on … 100%,” Tlaib said. “She was one of our biggest advocates for health care and access to alternative approaches, including cannabis … and she never gave up the fight. She will be sorely missed. I know that she is with us today.”

Also present was Dr. Abdul El-Sayeda who previously ran for Michigan governor in 2018, whose spoke about Abbas’s selfless dedication to the cause. “She took her pain and she used it to bring people together, to fight for all of the things that she herself was denied, recognizing that it could have been anyone else,” El-Sayeda said. “She took that pain and decided to make the world that much better.”

“Zahra didn’t have very much time, but Zahra put all of herself into the time she had,” he added.

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Dan Aykroyd, Jim Belushi to Headline Blues’d & Infused Fest as The Blues Brothers

The Blues Brothers band, headed by Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi, are set to headline the Blues’d and Infused cannabis music festival Saturday, August 20 at Riverfront Park in Niles, Michigan. What was once a humble Saturday Night Live sketch, one of the first to become widely known, is now an experience that is probably better with cannabis involved.

The event is presented by Highway Horticulture Productions, a cannabis processing facility, and Float Nation Live at Riverfront Park in Niles on August 20 with cannabis-related festivities including local bands, vendors, food trucks, consumption tents, a dab tent, game area, misting tents, and more.

The two will provide a full 90-minute set with an 11-piece band, from a Hammond B3 organ player to a horn section and The Blues Brothers themselves. The duo is typically known for singing and dancing hits from the official Blues Brothers canon like “Soul Man” and “Sweet Home Chicago” plus classic tunes from the vast catalog of great American roots music.

“It is a show band,” Belushi told Moody on the Market. “We’re going to have fun. The Blues Brothers are going to rock the whole southern Michigan, I got to tell ya.”

Their Working Man’s Brand will be available on site with local retailers, including Sunset Coast Provisions, Green Stem, Higher Breed, NOBO, Fleurish, and Sun Provision.

“Jim is bringing credibility to cannabis,” said Highway Horticulture co-founder Nick Sayers. “It’s not just a celebrity brand here. It’s very substantive. He approaches it as medicine first, which is how we view it. So, we’re trying to expand it safely to new interests, not just trying to get everyone high.”

“Nick is one of the smartest men in cannabis that I’ve met,” Belushi said. “We talked to a lot of different growers. … Nick, to me, was the most honorable with the message that’s most common to my message on my farm, and that is the pathway to healing through cannabis.”

Belushi said he connected with the Midwest, as he grew up in Chicago, Illinois.

“Michigan, you know, is my next-door neighbor,” he said. “It’s Midwest, it’s hard working people. I grew up as a hardworking guy with my dad and his restaurant in Chicago. … It’s a working man’s state, and we’re delivering working man’s medicine.”

A limited-edition concert tee designed by Tree Street Packing will be available for attendees. VIP packages are available including a photo opportunity with Belushi and Akroyd, a dedicated bathroom and swag bags. Attendees must be 21 years of age to attend this event.

Courtesy of The Blues Brothers

Belushi, who now often takes over for his late brother John Belushi, and Aykroyd, are actively involved in the cannabis community through various ongoing pursuits, including reprising the roles of The Blues Brothers. Belushi performs as Zee Blues while Akroyd plays Elwood Blues. It was one of the first Saturday Night Live sketches to come to life on the big screen in 1980, ranking second at the box office, after only The Empire Strikes Back.

In 2015, Belushi invested into Oregon’s cannabis industry, involving himself in the process of creating his extensive cannabis cultivation operation Belushi’s Farm. Later, The Discovery Channel got involved and launched the series Growing Belushi. Since then, Belushi has more or less made a tour of sharing an inside look of his farming endeavors to the world. His name is now synonymous with cannabis in a commercial sense.

Belushi now has a stable cannabis brand that features strains from his farm, and is a board member for The Last Prisoner Project.

Bhang collaborated with The Blues Brothers for the first time last November to deliver nostalgia-inducing Bhang x The Blues Brothers Cannabis-infused Chocolates, with unique textures and unusual flavors. The collaboration features marketing and promotional support to the Last Prisoner Project, a non-profit cannabis reform initiative.

At the event, Belushi’s Farm and other related cannabis projects will likely be part of the agenda.

Tickets for the event are available here.

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