METRO DETROIT – Four years ago I never seen so much enthusiasm for medical marijuana, hydroponic stores and 420 clinics. There was such a media uproar for this sort of business it had a lot of people thinking that this could be the next Colorado. The other thing was even more bizarre in the news. I remember reading something about Geoffrey Figer was talking about Detroit being the new Amsterdam. All of this hoopla was kind of interesting. As a search engine guy you can imagine our phones ringing to help these hydroponic guys.
We were riding on the wave of the green scene but it was going to be a short ride. As a non-user I found the experience to be bordering on ridiculous and at times very insane. Our office met with some of the cities wackiest characters. Some of the medical marijuana people were questionable and they referred to themselves as doctors. We helped them optimize their websites and made some web videos on YouTube.com. As web people we never really got into checking their credentials and gather detailed information on their medical requirements.
Hydroponic companies were also enthusiastic and were growing at a rapid rate. Walled Lake, Michigan which is a very small town boasted at least six businesses that I know of. This included 420 clinics in retail spaces as well as hydroponic stores that sold a wide range of growing media. What I found was that these guys came from all walks of life and not all of them from good places. Some of the guys I ran into were downright unsavory and poor business people. Some of the guys that we had to work for were tuned up all the time on “medication” and would have a 5 minute memory. This made getting our job done very difficult.
By the summer of 2014 a lot of these shops folded including the popular Hydro Harrys. The 420 clinics went first and rightly so. We noticed that many of these guys didn’t even have their own clinic and that they piggy backed off another existing doctors office. This may have been due to legal reasons or because of a lack of funds. They were very difficult to work for because they just didn’t have any money to do all the fancy search engine optimization and viral media. As far as legitimately holding their title as a doctor that is up for debate. I am aware that the official story is that Michigan racked up 10 Million dollars of tax revenue – at least that’s what they say. But the guys we met and worked with were always broke. Worse, some of these guys got evicted out of their buildings.
This overly optimistic time period was known as the, “Green Gold” period on the street. But reality dealt a pretty serious hand. The shops were pretty vacant on most days and foot traffic was almost nill. My theory fell into two areas. One, there wasn’t that many people growing medical marijuana. The other thing was these shops did very little to promote themselves when I wasn’t around. One store in particular on Woodward Avenue, (it’s closed for good now) had a room full of stock guys who sat around watching the Mets play on TV.
Some of those stores opened an online ordering system where people could buy supplies off the web. When it came to shipping the products it was another hurdle. The big nutrient drums were too expensive to ship. I mean, this stuff was incredibly heavy and the owners of the hydro stores would complain all the time about it. It was a goofy business and I got caught up in this because I believed the media hype that this was going to change the Michigan economic landscape.
I was off on that one… and so was everybody else. People went to jail in this short time frame. But those weren’t the ones that got the most media attention. Some of the growers got into this mindset where they could be the next Al Capone and sell dope for a living under the table. They ended up on the news of course. But there was the guys that had the CO2 gas or whatever it was rigged up in their houses. Long story short their houses exploded. At least that’s what I saw happen on the news. Some guy in Belleville accidently blew up his house. But that’s not why I left the whole bizarre fiasco.
The real reason why I didn’t stick around was because I didn’t have to patience to deal with these stoned business owners. The money was terrible. And I actually switched over to lucrative home improvement companies because I was tired of the riff raff – and the non-existent pay. You see, towards the end of the wave the only guys who were optimistic about this whole scene was the media. The perception was that this new style of business was going to save Michigan, (despite a major exodus). NBC was right in there with the rest of the media citing California and Colorado as financial role models.
But I was on the inside track and I could tell you these guys barely had enough money for gas every day. They were living on thin margins. Now, to be fair, maybe I am a jerk and am not – “Pro Michigan” enough. Maybe I lack sympathy. But it was not a business I could get excited about. It certainly wasn’t scalable. I know there will be many medical marijuana defenders out there touting the great riches of money being made in this industry. Myself, personally, I am relieved that I am out of that whole stupid dopey rock and roll circus.
As the major players are thinning out I am somewhat reflective. Right now there is another boom happening with the whole e-cig market which is valued at 1 Billion. I am not excited about that very much because I see these shops being run in very much the same way as the medical marijuana people. There are a lot of shop owners and employees staggering around stoned chomping on a metal stogie. These guys are oblivious to anyone walking into their shops. I got to wonder if these guys have any real staying power. As far as money goes there is more money in funerals than there is in these hype industries. The funeral market rolls in at 11 Billion annually.
We will be going more into detail about our misadventures in this market in an upcoming article.
Fun stuff. But not for me.
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