Pubdate: Wed, 25 Jul 2012
Source: Metro Times (Detroit, MI)
Copyright: 2012 C.E.G.W./Times-Shamrock
Author: Larry Gabriel
Column: Higher Ground


These Michigan Dispensaries Are Nondescript, Businesslike and

Maybe there are marijuana dispensaries where clouds of smoke drift
through the air behind beaded curtains as loud music pounds from
speakers, dancing girls gyrate and heavy lidded smokers nod while
reclining on overstuffed pillows.

Those kinds of places may exist, but I didn't see anything like that
when I visited the People's Choice medical marijuana dispensary in Ann
Arbor and the Trans Love Compassion Collective in Detroit. They are
among the approximately 80 facilities currently operating in Michigan
after last year's Court of Appeals decision in a Mount Clemens case
prompted many of the nearly 400 outlets then in Michigan to shut down.
(Some see a state Supreme Court readiness to hear an appeal of the
appeals decision as an indication that the high court has a kinder
disposition regarding dispensaries.)

People's Choice is in a nondescript area behind a Chinese restaurant
near the intersection of West Liberty and Stadium. There is a growing
equipment store next door that seems more flamboyant than the People's
Choice. When I knocked a woman who later described herself as the
"bulldog at the door" answered and asked if I had a Michigan medical
marijuana card. When I didn't produce, I had to cool my heels at the
door until the owner Ronald (Harry) Cayce, who was expecting me, came
out to vouch for me.

There isn't much to the place and no smoke in the air; the rule is no
smoking on the premises. There is a central hallway about 30 feet long
with three or four small rooms to either side. Bulldog woman, one of
three workers there when I visited, sat in a small office to the right.

She checks and verifies the cards of all who enter.

"We look as closely as we can," says Cayce. "Everybody in here is a

Pretty much everybody who works at these kinds of places is a medical
marijuana patient or a caregiver. That was the case a couple of years
ago when I visited Big Daddy's in Oak Park. There, nobody let me
anywhere near any marijuana; I just got to see the business office and
growing equipment that was on sale. At People's Choice I actually got
to see plants, buds and edibles.

Aside from the reception area up front there is a room with seats and
magazines that looks like a doctor's waiting room. Further back there
was a room with a few small transplants under lights.

A lot of People's Choice customers come in for transplants. Those are
small branches cut from plants and put through a cloning process that
makes them grow roots and become their own plants. Through cloning,
growers can produce genetically identical female plants to known
strains rather than the haphazard results obtained by using seeds.

Female plants grow the THC-rich buds coveted by most medical and
recreational users.

Speaking of buds, there is a bud room at People's Choice where
patients get to examine and choose their buds. About a dozen small,
clinical looking jars contain a bud or two each of various strains.
Clients can peruse them, discuss their effects with the bud tender
stationed in the area, and even read lab reports on the THC and CBD
cannabinoid levels in each sample.

THC is known for its pain reduction, and appetite inducing properties.
CBD is known for anxiety, nausea and convulsion reduction,

"Everybody is looking for something that has 12 percent THC and 12
percent CBD," says Harry. "The European seed banks have pretty much
bred the CBD out of the supply."

Everything is prepackaged here, from the most popular size -- one gram
- -- on up to the 2.5-ounce limit set by the Michigan Medical Marihuana
Act. There are tinctures and oils made with THC extracts, and edibles
range from the traditional brownies and cookies to pizza and
lollipops. Harry says they get about 50 customers each day. During the
late afternoon hour -- I was there on a Tuesday -- two folks came in,
took care of their business and left quickly.

People's Choice is one of eight dispensaries licensed by the city of
Ann Arbor. The dispensaries work together as an informal guild mostly
to organize community events such as a food drive, painting park
benches and pulling weeds at a senior center aimed at showing that
they are good members of the community.

"We're trying to bring medication cost effectively to the patient
while looking over our shoulders ever day," says Cayce.

Trans Love Energies in Detroit is an entirely different model for a
medical marijuana facility. While People's Choice is a nonprofit,
Holice Wood, co-owner of Trans Love, stresses that his place is a
private club for card-carrying medical marijuana patients.

Located on Gratiot Avenue between Russell and Riopelle across from
Eastern Market, Trans Love is in one of a number of historic art deco
buildings on the block undergoing a renaissance.

Trans Love Energies was an anti-establishment arts and media group
started by John and Leni Sinclair during the 1960s. It began in
Detroit and later moved to Ann Arbor. Indeed John Sinclair is Wood's
partner in the new endeavor but has no hand in the day-to-day
operation of the place.

It's unclear what the actual business relationship is other than
Sinclair lending his name, which is associated with marijuana
activism, to the endeavor.

Some of Leni Sinclair's photos of '60s and '70s rock stars hang on
some walls.

There's more music history here: The building is the former recording
studio of KMS, the label created in 1987 by techno pioneer Kevin
Saunderson and where Derrick May and Juan Atkins also recorded.

In fact, May still maintains an apartment in the building

The weekday afternoon I visited the facility Trans Love looked like a
construction area inside. Wood and a guy who called himself Oak were
putting in a kitchen and a bathroom, both with marble counters.

Subfloors were exposed in a few areas waiting to be

There weren't any club members around although Wood says they could
come in if they wanted.

He has a schedule for when members, caregivers and prospective members
can come in. Members can drop in from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through
Saturday. Members can procure medication at the site. Caregivers who
have produced more than their patient can use can unload the overage
there from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

"We don't want them to mix with each other," says Wood. "Parking lot
deals cause danger.

I'm trying to provide a safe place where people can procure their

Wood emphasizes that Trans Love is a private club, and the
construction, slated to be done this week, focuses on that aspect.

The new kitchen will serve meals (medicated and non-medicated) to
members, prepared by three different chefs who work two days a week
each. There is a partially covered outdoor courtyard with a small
stage and room to accommodate about 40 or 50 people.

Wood, whose other enterprise, Detroit Life (, is an
artist management and publicity company, plans to have bands, poetry
readings and the like in the courtyard. There will also be classes on
how to build a grow room, cultivation and cooking with marijuana. When
there is no entertainment folks will be able to watch cable TV on the
courtyard screen.

"We don't have to push bud," says Wood. "Bud sells

As we move forward in the medical marijuana world, and with the chance
that Detroiters will decriminalize possession of small amounts of
marijuana by adults on private property this fall, many are looking
for a business model that works in their municipality -- and under the
shadow of a hostile state attorney general. People's Choice has opted
for the small, no nonsense retail outlet where you buy your meds and
go home. Trans Love looks more like the kind of place that has the
anti-marijuana gang sweating. It's a place where club members access
medication, entertainment, and learn about cultivation and cooking in
a safe atmosphere.

You can choose your own medicine.
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MAP posted-by: Matt