GRAND RAPIDS — The city’s first cannabis dispensary has launched a business incubator called Fluresh Accelerator, which aims to increase access and equity in the growing cannabis industry.
Fluresh Accelerator, recently launched by Fluresh LLC, will collaborate with community partners, educators and governmental agencies to help the next leaders of the industry. Focus areas of the curriculum will include state and local licensing, entrepreneurship, finance, cultivation and processing, retail operations, environmental sustainability and marketing.
The Fluresh cannabis brand has chosen four Michigan-based businesses and three individuals to participate in the mentorship program that will provide skills, knowledge and resources to community members interested in the industry. More than 80 percent of the selected participants are Black and Indigenous residents.
Business participants include GanjaGirl MI, owned by Mary Sherman and Morgan Underwood; Wormies Vermicompost, owned by Luis Chen and Chandler Michalsk; Aqume Enterprises owned by Ciarra Adkins, an attorney and consultant who also serves as an equity analyst for the city of Grand Rapids; and Creative Carvings LLC, owned by Jessica Austin and Dominric Gray. Individual participants also include Alvin Hills, a business developer in the city of Grand Rapids’ Office of Equity and Engagement, entrepreneur Erica Tyler, and former dispensary operator Roberto Gonzalez.
Data collected in December 2020 by the state Marijuana Regulatory Agency shows ownership of licensed recreational cannabis establishments is just 3.8 percent Black or African American, and 1.5 percent Hispanic or Latino, despite the state and many local municipalities’ diversity and inclusion goals for ownership in the new industry.
“As licensed operators in the cannabis industry, we should be brave enough to acknowledge the history of cannabis in the country and those communities that were targeted and disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs,” Denavvia Mojet, corporate impact strategist and legal compliance manager at Fluresh, said in a statement. “To combat these inequities, cannabis companies need to lead by example and work to drive a new industry that is diverse and invested in social equity and justice. The Fluresh Accelerator serves that exact purpose.”
Fluresh opened applications for the incubator program in December 2020, with eligibility open to any individual who is a legal resident of Michigan and at least 21 years old as of Jan. 1, 2021.
Fluresh was the first medical cannabis dispensary to open in Grand Rapids in early 2020, and also became the first to be licensed for recreational sales late last year.
For the incubator program, the company strongly considered applicants that aligned with Fluresh’s goal to make the cannabis industry more diverse and equitable, particularly for those affected by prohibition policies.
“To be part of a mentorship program that focuses on social equity, and working with individuals seeking opportunities in the cannabis business makes me excited about the future of my business in the cannabis industry,” said Austin, of Creative Carvings.
The incubator’s first educational session and orientation took place on Feb. 26. Upcoming sessions will continue through fall 2021.
“The Fluresh team is proud to launch this unique program in the state of Michigan, whose market is experiencing incredibly rapid growth,” Fluresh CEO Tom Benson said in a statement. “We’re excited to be a part of this trajectory, due in part to the dedication of our nearly 200 employees operating across facilities in Grand Rapids and Adrian. That said, with this growth comes a responsibility to the communities we operate in, and a need to take what we’re learning and share it with those that wish to join our company in this competitive field.”