Growing like a weed: Michigan businesses sprout, flourish to supply marijuana users in Crain’s Michigan Business magazine, Feb 11, 2013

Call it “cannabiz” — a budding new industry for Michigan in the production and distribution of marijuana for medicinal and recreational use.

Both aboveboard and underground, a well-established business model exists for marijuana, complete with a means of production, channels of distribution and a marketplace that reacts quickly to business conditions.

So far, legal wrangling has kept a lid on the pent-up demand from an estimated 1 million users in the state. Legal hurdles appear to be more delays of the inevitable rather than showstoppers. But rulings such as the one passed down Friday by the Michigan Supreme Court, effectively outlawing dispensaries of medical marijuana, continue to styme the industry.

Public sentiment appears to favor more relaxed laws. In November, five metropolitan areas representing about 1.1 million people passed laws that in one form or another loosened the reins of marijuana use. More than 124,000 people in Michigan already carry cards for the medicinal use of cannabis, which Michigan voters approved by a significant majority in 2008.

MediSwipe Inc. — a small, publicly traded company (OTCQB: MWIP) that provides digital identification cards for medical marijuana patients and ATM-like kiosks to handle cashless transactions at marijuana dispensaries — relocated its headquarters from South Florida to Birmingham “based on recent and favorable state legislation regarding medical marijuana and dispensary laws”(Crain’s, Feb. 4).  For more information:

Michigan Cannabis Physicians Group — with locations in Detroit, Sterling Heights, Flint, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor and East Lansing — states on its website that patients fill out forms, provide valid identification, have their blood pressure taken, then have a 10-minute interview with a physician.

“After the interview is completed, you will be given your recommendation and the packet to mail off to the state to get your official medical marijuana card,” the site says. “That’s all there is to it!”

The center generally charges a $150 fee, while the state generally charges $100 to file an application.

To be eligible for a card, patients “must suffer from a debilitating medical condition,” such as severe and chronic pain, severe nausea, severe or persistent muscle spasms, seizures or Crohn’s disease, according to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

Robert “Dr. Bob” Townsend has logged nearly 5,000 miles on his GMC Yukon since January, crisscrossing the state in visits to 24 offices to certify patients seeking medical marijuana cards, management of chronic pain or suboxone therapy for narcotics addiction. Last year he put nearly 50,000 miles on his vehicle traveling to 17 storefront locations in Upper Peninsula communities and cities served by Denali Healthcare in Portage, which has offices in Sturgis, Cutlerville, Coldwater, Kentwood, Albion, Holland, Grandville and Jenison.

“I discovered the medical benefits of marijuana in 2007 when I was doing suboxone therapy for narcotics addiction,” said Townsend, who holds a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from Michigan State University and a medical degree from the Southeastern College of Osteopathic Medicine in North Miami Beach, Fla.

“I began to notice that as I was weaning people off of narcotic pain medications, those that were using marijuana illegally, and then with medical marijuana cards after 2008, weaned very, very well.”

After seeing thousands of patients over the past five years, Townsend has concluded that marijuana has a deserved place in a doctor’s black bag.

“I discovered that people were coming off using handfuls of Vicodin a month — high doses of Vicodin every day — strictly through the use of medical marijuana,” said Townsend, who termed himself one of the biggest advocates for it in the state — but never has used it. For more information:



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