Another week has passed, and there is more good news for the caregivers.
Lume announced earlier this week that they are shuttering four of their storefronts. Lume is one of the largest dispensary networks in the state, and they abruptly announced they would be closing their shops.
Lume made the announcement on Monday through its public relations firm Byrum & Fisk. Remember, it is Mark Fisk who supplanted Steve Linder as the head of the Michigan Cannabis Manufacturers Association. This is the monopoly group at war with the caregivers trying to mandate total control of the state’s cannabis industry through onerous legislation.
Lume is owned by Bob and Don Barnes, who are the owners of Belle Tire. They could be nice well-intentioned guys for all that I know, but their lack of understanding of the cannabis industry has caused them some hardships. They came into the industry looking to make money, looking to maximize profits, and trying to corner the market. At some level, I can respect the hustle, but overambition and lack of understanding of the cannabis community has hurt them.
The storefronts offered by Lume are clean, well-maintained, professional and impressive. The supply, however, is lacking. The prices are often exorbitant. In an industry that is experiencing massive deflation, the model pushed by the Barnes boys is completely nonviable. Why would a consumer who can buy some nugs from his local dealer cheaper than ever waste his time on overpriced nugs that do not compare in quality to what is offered through the black or grey markets? It just doesn’t make sense.
Cannabis consumers were used to buying from their dealer for years as they heroically used civil disobedience to undermine prohibition. They have no problem going back to that model, which has proven to be effective and built the cannabis industry into America’s top cash crop, rather than pay exorbitant costs. The caregiver model replaced the black market in Michigan and was effective because it did not overregulate the market. People could grow in their homes, and the overages could end up in medical marijuana dispensaries. This system worked for everyone, except of course for the tax man.
During the golden age of medical marijuana dispensaries in the early years after medical marijuana was legalized, there was immense innovation. The prices were low, the consumer was happy, but plenty of entrepreneurs were making money during a time of recession and tremendous economic uncertainty. And contrary to the propaganda spread by cops and other reefer haters, there were no problems that were being caused in communities. An industry was booming, and it would have kept booming, except for the regulations that came in.
The marijuana industry is fueled by a core of people who have great loyalty to growers who they know provide the best product. They would never buy corporate weed in a million years. There is also the problem of unlimited Class C licenses. Myself and my former lobbying group, EverGreen Management, argued to cap these Class C licenses. We were ignored by the lawmakers. They spit in our faces. They listened to the Big Money Bastards, and now we are all suffering as a result.
The problem with giving the government regulatory authority over an industry is they do not stop at sensible regulation. They will use whatever initial sensible regulations to get a foothold in on an industry, and before long, they and the interests who own them dominate it. There are many other industries (think Energy, Beer & Wine, etc.) that operate under this sort of monopoly. But cannabis will never be one of them. Too many lessons have been learned during prohibition. Too much sacrifice has been made for it to be swallowed up.
This is why the corporations find themselves at an unexpected impasse right now, and they are finding their economic power is rapidly waning in Lansing when lawmakers see the industry hemorrhaging cash Those of us involved with the Michigan Caregivers Association (and all similar-minded activists who have been in the trenches fighting the takeover) helped put a chink in the armor of the bad guys. We put up the road block that caused them to stumble. And stumble, they have. The national recession has not helped them, but it is their own greed that was ultimately their undoing.
As much as we would like to take absolute and total credit for their failure, they have been their own worst enemies. They saw the cannabis industry as nothing more than cash cow that they could corner and milk endlessly for their own delught. The corporate villains came into Michigan looking to gang rape another industry. Instead, they have realized that there are limits to their ambition. We saw it with Terrapin, and now we are seeing it with Lume. This industry will always belong to this people, and the corporate raiders are finding it out about the consequences of trying to overthrow it.
At Cannabash over the weekend, we heard that the booths for High Life and Skymint were eerily dead. These firms have taken massive reputational hits for selling out the caregivers and being part of the corporate takeover of the Michigan cannabis industry. The rebel spirit within the cannabis industry is still alive, and educated consumers can make a big difference. From the chatter to the boycotts to the legislative fights to our aggressive media campaign to expose the monopolists, it is all coming together to have an amazing impact.
The caregivers are suffering right now, but ultimately will win because they provide the best product. Through the compassionate relationship between caregivers and their patients, they know how to tailor the product to the unique needs of the individual. The recreational system cannot compete with that. The love behind the caregivers system is something to behold, and educated consumers will continue to appreciate that and reward that proven system as the corporations fall.
There is a place for dispensaries but only if they operate under honest principles within the marketplace and work alongside caregivers. There is enough demand for dispensaries to give convenient options to casual cannabis users while caregivers provide the best quality product to true connoisseurs and medical patients who need it. But there is no room for the corporate kingpins who hate competition and hate liberty. They will be snuffed out, and this is just the beginning of their end.