Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the January/February 2019 issue of the Michigan Cannabis Industries Report.
Just Take The Plunge
Corktown gets an upgrade as Botaniq opens for cannabis distribution
by Larry Gabriel
Getting into the medical marijuana business in Michigan has been a tough road for most. But folks who cultivated roots in the business these past few years are beginning to see the flowering of their efforts.
One such business is BotaniQ in Detroit. The place has only been open a couple of months, but the efforts of the six-member ownership team has been at it for a few years. They chose not to open before acquiring a license in order to avoid aggravating the Michigan Medical Marihuana Licensing Board.
Theirs is an ambitious effort. The group has a Class C growing license for 1,500 plants, a processing license and a retail license. It’s basically a seed to sale operation that intends to develop and brand a line of their own products. So far they’re struggling along like everyone else as the state production and distribution system struggles to get up to speed.
John Patropolus is from Flint but is now in the oil business in Colorado with his wife Shannon. After watching the marijuana business coalesce there he began attending industry conferences. During that time, “it went from people wearing overalls and farmers, to people with suits and ties. High end capital money, and it just became like the oil and gas exploration business overnight.” says Patropolus.
He decided to take the plunge in his home state. When scouting around Detroit for a location he walked into a Corktown real estate office and ended up meeting agent Vincent Mazzola who became a partner. Vince led Patropolus to Rafael Blake, a co-owner of the Marble Bar who also knows how to grow marijuana.
That group hooked up with Anqunette Jamison Sarfoh and her husband Richard. Anqunette is a former Fox 2 news anchor who has Multiple Sclerosis. When cannabis got her off the numerous medications she was taking, Anqunette quit her anchor job to become an activist and get into the marijuana business. Anqunette is popularly as Q in the Detroit area, hence the big letter in BotaniQ. Expect to see it in other branding. In terms of marketing in southeast Michigan Q is the brand.
Having her on board helped immensely during a tough portion of getting a Detroit city license, which is required to get a state license. Their first application was denied but in appealing Anqunette brought her star power and pulled together business and residential supporters from the community. She also brought in Ike McKinnon, retired police chief to speak in favor of BotaniQ at a Board of Zoning Appeals hearing. So they got that step of it done.
Patropolus seems to be at the center of everything in the operation. The one who can easily explain what is going on no matter what aspect of the operation is under the discussion. He engages well with people. Probably a demeanor that serves him well in his business dealings.
The company that will oversee the three licensed entities is 2540 RP, LLC. They’ll use the Marijuana Freeway seed to sale tracking software to coordinates and keep track of things. In Michigan compliance is the name of the games. While the 2,700 square feet BotaniQ is in Detroit’s Corktown area, the grow and processing business are in a 3,200 square feet facility Warren. At this point Detroit has not licensed any marijuana-related businesses other than provisioning centers. Warren was ahead of the curve in terms of licensing grow facilities.
Both buildings were empty at the time the group located them and both required gutting and build out for the new businesses. Finding construction workers was difficult. Because of a building boom in southeastern Michigan skilled workers were hard to come by. That caused everything to take about three times as long as scheduled.
The fact that there is not a lot of experience with the cannabis business among contractors right now was an added issue. Even those who thought they knew the cannabis business were not prepared for the rigor required by the state and by this group.
“Let’s put it this way, there are two ways to do it,” says Patropolus. “The way it’s always been done, which is wrong, and there’s a way to do it now with how a modern cannabis facility should be run. We have a lot to uphold now, this is a modern growing industry it needs to be a high end retail experience.”
According to Patropolus, so far the group is more than $2.5 million deep for the cost of setting up all three businesses. The growing and processing facility in Warren was built as a clean room so that mold and bugs and all the things that adulterate a grow can’t get in.
This group is built for the long run, with ambitions that go beyond just selling products in a retail setting. It seems pretty well assured that the Q will be prominent in our cannabis industry.
Larry Gabriel is a Detroit-based journalist who has been editor of Metro Times, UAW Solidarity Magazine and the American Cultivator