Back when the first issue of City Pulse was published in 2001, pot smokers were still risking up to a year behind bars and fines of up to $2,000 for possession of marijuana. The concept of ordering a pack of joints online for a home delivery was some George Jetson pipe dream.
Grow operations were mostly in basements. Orders were usually placed through a series of cryptic text messages that led to a quick parking lot meetup with a friend of a friend. I was still several years away from smoking my first bong. The words “corporate” and “cannabis” had rarely been strung together in the same sentence. This column would’ve been even more laughable.
Being paid to sample and review weed? Publicly confessing to smoking pot just about every day for the last decade while also holding down a professional journalism career? Yeah. Right.
Fast forward to 2021 and the world has changed. There are now more than a dozen pot shops (and hundreds of cultivators and processors) in Lansing, each fully licensed by the state to replace your neighborhood dope dealer. You can pick from hundreds of flower strains, tinctures, gummies, ointments and drink mixes. Even suppositories are on the shelves at a few stores.
I got paid to make weed popsicles last week. There’s a 420 festival scheduled downtown this weekend, complete with an on-site VIP smoking tent. Four new on-site consumption lounges and micro-cultivation operations are also headed to Lansing. Some plan to open yet this year.
We’re living in the middle of the cannabis revolution. But how exactly did we get here?
The commercial marijuana industry planted some of its first legal roots in Michigan after voters approved a 2008 ballot initiative to legalize possession of pot with a doctor’s endorsement. Dozens of shops cropped up statewide, though without any state licensing structure in place.
City Pulse counted at least 62 open marijuana dispensaries in Lansing during what many referred to as the “Wild West” period under former Mayor Virg Bernero’s administration.
Some residents — like Neogen founder James Herbert — had cried foul, calling the city “Lansterdam” at public comment and conjuring memories of pornography stores on Michigan Avenue where most of the shops operated. (Thanks for the catchy column name, Jim.)
Gov. Rick Snyder signed bills in 2016 to create a regulatory structure for medical shops. It took Lansing until 2017 to come up with its own rules for how pot should be sold in the city. A contentious licensing process also delayed any local shops from legally opening for more than a year after that city ordinance was passed. By then, many longstanding businesses had closed.
While medical dispensaries were starting to get re-licensed, the recreational side of the market was also setting its sights on Lansing. Following the passage of Proposal One in 2018, anyone over the age of 21 was legally able to grow and smoke pot by December. City Pulse celebrated the occasion by sending out a team of reporters to give away a shoebox full of joints downtown.
The industry celebrated by building out hundreds of thousands of square feet of growing space.
The City Council took until late 2019 to finalize the rules for up to 28 recreational shops in the city. And last February, Homegrown Cannabis Co. became the first to open in Lansing. Thirteen more have since opened their doors; The other 14 stores have been locally approved and must either open up before the end of the year with a state license or possibly forfeit their licenses.
Lansterdam in Review launched last year in tandem with City Pulse’s summer cocktail guide. By April, Editor & Publisher had labeled City Pulse as among the state’s “leading authorities” on “everything you need to know about cannabis.” And you can count on me being there every step of the way as the industry continues its expansion in Greater Lansing and across Michigan.
Admittedly, we still have a way to go. Cannabis is still nonsensically listed on the federal Schedule 1 of controlled substances next to heroin and ecstasy based on the proposition that weed has “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Even with a new president and Congress controlled by Democrats, it seems an era of prohibition will continue.
Kyle Kaminski is City Pulse’s managing editor and a cannabis enthusiast who has been smoking marijuana just about every day for the last decade. Almost weekly, Kaminski samples some of the best cannabis products available in Greater Lansing, gets real high and writes about them.