Compassion Club Profile: Metro Detroit
It has been just over a year since medical marijuana officially became law in the state of Michigan. The movement is in full effect, and Chris Thomas of the Metro Detroit Medical Marihuana Association is one of the crusaders leading the charge.
“We give out flyers, we hold monthly meetings to inform people how to get their cards and educate them on all the benefits,” explains Thomas, who says the organization has built up a stable base of clients since the law went into effect. “We even offer and give away free marijuana to people who forever reason, can’t afford it. When a person signs up to become a member of our organization, we give them a gram. From there, they always buy from us and we’re able to keep them. “
The Metro Detroit Medical Marihuana Association doesn’t limit themselves to street teams, as the organization recently decided to take its venture to the web. What some would consider a bold move, Thomas sees as a strategic way of getting the word out while still operating within the law.
“If you go on our website, you can actually order marijuana,” says Thomas. “Sure, we can’t have a dispensary, but according to the law, we can facilitate caregiver-to-patient transfers.”
Several medical marijuana supporters, caregivers especially, will tell you that their sole purpose for getting involved in the movement is to assist patients. A college graduate with a Master’s degree in business, Thomas reveals that what attracted him was the business aspect that opened up a golden opportunity. Already a skilled grower, Thomas saw passing of the law as the birth of a new prosperous industry.
“Our forefathers were always cultivating,” he says. “Did it from the dawn of time. Whether it’s corn, soy beans, whether it’s rice, whether it’s cotton … whether it’s anything … we are naturally cultivators. So now, we have a product that we can cultivate, bring a market, and sell on the open market … marijuana. The groovy thing is a poor man with no education and no future, or an education and future, can actually bring up a crop and take it to market just like any farmer. They do it with everything else, we’re just using marijuana.”
On the topic of Michigan dispensaries and all the controversy surrounding them, Thomas states that while we probably will not see a law that permits the operation of fully licensed and regulated facilities any time soon, the existing legislation actually works in favor of the caregiver. He hints that it’s all about how you play the game.
“Dispensaries … no way, no how … ever,” says Thomas. “You can’t use the word dispensary. But we’re not a dispensary, we’re a compassion club. Under this guideline, we can transfer, we can deliver and transport. I can even take it one step further because other states reciprocate cards. In fact, New Jersey just passed the law. So now if people in Jersey want marijuana, I can transport marijuana from Michigan to Jersey without any problems because that’s what the law states. But you’ve got to keep your paperwork on you just in case you get harassed. As long you’ve got your paperwork, you’re good to go.”
Thomas says the happenings in California have influenced Michigan’s outlook on dispensaries.
“They don’t want dispensaries here because they don’t want it like L.A,” he says. “They don’t want dispensaries, but you know what? They’re already here, because the law states that I can transfer. Now I can’t open up a building and put the word “dispensary” on it, but I can open up my front door, and transfer my product from one place to another. In the end, there will not be any problems with dispensing marijuana because it’s all about money. The state wants money.”
Thomas’s goal is to transform a building that once housed a Little Caesars pizza joint into the headquarters for the Metro Detroit Medical Marihuana Association, a project he hopes to have completed sometime this year. Located on 7 Mile and Greenfield Road in Detroit, the facility is slated to offer T-shirts, pipes, vaporizers and growing systems, in addition to providing a cozy area where patients can medicate. And while the market is currently flourishing, Thomas believes it is only a matter of time before it slows down and comes to a complete halt.
“Right now we have 14 states that passed the law,” he says. “As soon we reach 25 states, there will be a referendum at the federal level. And then you won’t need me. We still have a good three to five years before things get saturated. So what you have to do is get in, make your money now, and get out.”