Pubdate: Wed, 18 Nov 2015
Source: Metro Times (Detroit, MI)
Column: Higher Ground
Copyright: 2015 C.E.G.W./Times-Shamrock
Author: Larry Gabriel


There's a lot of talk about high rollers trying to get in on the 
growing marijuana market. Here's the tale of a couple of low rollers 
who'd like to get in on a market that - as Donald Trump would say - 
is gonna be HUGE!

Andrea and Ervin Allen run a family- and home-based business on the 
east side of Detroit. It's called A&E products; they're in the 
medical marijuana business. Andrea is a medical marijuana caregiver 
and Ervin is a patient. Their tale of interest in the plant goes back 
about 13 years when Andrea's father died from cancer.

"I came home from the funeral and got on the Internet," she says. "I 
looked up the top herbal medicines for pain in 1900 and cannabis was 
right there at the top of the list."

 From that starting point, Andrea continued reading what she could 
find, learning what she could about "cannabis" - the scientific name 
that she prefers to use. She read what studies were available online 
and kept track of laws as they changed across the country. The couple 
began selling jewelry and other products with marijuana leaf images 
on them at activist events and business expos.

After the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act was passed in 2008, she 
became a caregiver for Ervin, who suffers back pain from his work 
operating a jackhammer for many years and undergoing back surgery. 
They began growing it, and she developed pain-killing oil that works 
for her husband and eliminated his prescription medication for pain.

The Allens learned how to grow potent plants through experimentation 
and paying attention to others at events as they talked about their 
growing techniques. They developed their own strains and named them: 
Grandma Gee, Grandpa Kush, Twilight Fear, Mad Skunk, and Apple Butter.

They've also developed a number of products to aid others getting 
into medical marijuana. They sell A&E Blend Dirt, A&E Organic 
Fertilizer, A&E Germination pellets, and racks for drying the plants. 
They have created oil for eczema and one to promote hair growth. 
They've created a 26-herb mix for shaking onto food.

"I want everyone to know that God put herbs on this earth for a 
reason," Andrea says.

The Allens have put together a PowerPoint presentation about medical 
cannabis, and presented it in various states where medical marijuana 
is used. Members of A&E's board of directors are spread around the 
country and they help set things up in their locales. The 
presentation includes information on the cannabis plant and medical 
uses, updates on the local laws, requirements to become a patient or 
a caregiver, how to grow it, and the equipment you need for a grow 
room or outdoor garden.

It looks like A&E is setting up a national network to market their 
products in a future where cannabis is legal. Wherever they can, they 
apply for licenses and certifications to do business so that when the 
time comes they will be ready to go. They even applied for a patent 
on one of their products. The guy at the patent office told them to 
get a lawyer.

"We were compiling this documentation and once we did we began to get 
licensed up," Andrea says. "I really went to town. We're the only 
black company that does what we do. My husband has been my guinea pig."

It's a family business that has developed with ironic twists. It was 
Andrea's father's death from cancer that led her to cannabis, and her 
husband's injured back that led her to develop pain medication. 
Andrea's activity was amped up when her sister who lived in Florida 
was struck with acute myelogenous leukemia. They moved her to 
Michigan so she could have cannabis treatments.

"They gave her three months to live," says Andrea in discussing her 
sister's years of survival. "I took my sister into remission. My 
sister has a twin. If rare diseases run in my family, it could hit my 
grandkids or me. ... They call me the mad scientist."

She wants to be ready for whatever health challenges may come her 
way. Andrea's mother suffers from multiple sclerosis and has been 
helped with cannabis. Family members with military backgrounds have 
led to her looking into cannabis for PTSD - they have a presentation 
on that. She has a cousin who owns 10 acres of land in Michigan and 
she's looking at the laws as they evolve for an opportunity to do 
some next-level growing.

In the yard they grow organic herbs and vegetables. They also grow 
plants that keep pests away from gardens and have even started 
experimenting with exotic flowers as a possible future revenue 
stream. Andrea is president of the Roxbury Street Block Club and 
recall some confrontations about her cannabis proselytizing.

"I don't argue with people about cannabis anymore," Andrea says. "I'm 
a caring person. I have to grow."

Cannabis awareness started in the family because of health issues and 
has grown into the kind of groundwork that could blossom as a 
business for the Allens. They deserve a chance at this as much as 
anybody else. Now that medical marijuana is more acceptable and 
recreational use has its foot in the door, big-money investors want 
to jump in and make a lot more money. That's part of the national 
conversation about marijuana this past year. It is going to be huge; 
it already is. But there needs to be a place for all levels of 
participants. Maybe that's the lesson from Ohio where a legalization 
initiative was voted down.

Those who are trying to lock up the market for themselves are preying 
on the fears of people who are afraid of marijuana. They basically 
tell them that they are going to lock it up tight, dole it out 
sparsely, and keep it away from their kids. However it goes down 
there is going to be regulation unheard of in a formerly underground industry.

However, there still needs to be a place for small businesses with 
boutique products. It takes all kinds. The robust craft beer industry 
might be a model in terms of the way they bridge a gap and create a 
diversity of products that used to not exist. That's the kind of 
space people like the Allens could possibly aspire to and inhabit in 
the short run. They're considering all kinds of possibilities.

"One of my dreams is to open up a restaurant that is cannabis 
driven," says Andrea, "maybe a bed and breakfast with cannabis."

Dream on. It's a good dream to have. Let's not turn it into a 
nightmare for them by making things too tight. North America goes to 
pot Recent political developments show the potential for the entire 
continent to become a post-prohibition zone. In Canada, Prime 
Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party won recent elections on a 
platform that included legalizing recreational use of marijuana. 
Since the election the Liberal Party repeated that it intends to 
pursue legalization quickly. It looks like Donald Trump may have to 
build a wall along our northern border to keep the drugs out (and 
make the Canadians pay for it with their filthy drug money).

In Mexico, the Supreme Court recently said yes to four specific 
people who filed a petition for the right to grow, own, and use. 
Personal use has been decriminalized there since 2009, but this begs 
the possibility that the right that applies to four specific Mexicans 
might apply to all Mexicans. Nothing specific is up, but the door has 
been opened and my guess is a lot of people are going to want to walk 
through it.

Finally, right here in these United States, the legalization train 
hit a bump in Ohio but still seems to be rolling along. Yes, Ohio 
said no by a 64-36 percent margin but let's just say the proposed law 
was controversial among marijuana supporters. Legalization still 
looks good in a number of states that will be voting in 2016. 
Personally I'm looking forward to a solid block of West Coast states 
where freedom rings. On the election trail Bernie Sanders wants to 
end prohibition, and Hillary Clinton has come out in favor of 
rescheduling the substance on the Democratic side; and the 
Republicans have at least brought it up. I loved it when Rand Paul 
chided Jeb Bush for his "privileged" use of marijuana while poor 
users went to jail. My guess is after next year's elections, there 
are going to be a few more legalized states and whoever is president 
will have to come up with a coherent policy.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom