Anti-traditionalists are proving they are powerful in a Michigan conflict between big cannabusiness and social media jocks
June 24, 2021
Bad actors in the cannabis community have been targeted by Michigan consumer and patient advocates through an information campaign and a purchase boycott, directed at members of the cannabis trade organization Michigan Cannabis Manufacturer’s Association (MCMA). The boycott stems from the MCMA’s efforts to have Michigan’s caregiver program significantly scaled back, with an 80% proposed reduction in caregiver plant allowance and a 75% reduction in a medical patient’s ability to cultivate.
The MCMA is rumored to have 13 members, but their membership is a closely guarded secret and only 5 of the companies are known. The boycott of those five has spread to include the companies which provide services and products to those MCMA members- and, in a recent wrinkle, is ramping up to target those companies which sell products made by MCMA companies.
This struggle is a David and Goliath story of hardcore advocates with laptop computers and little else fighting against multi-million dollar companies described as the “Fords and General Motors of the cannabis industry”. The Davids are tech-enabled patients and rec marijuana users trying to protect the rights of registered patients to grow 12 plants for themselves, or for a caregiver to grow 12 on their behalf. The Goliaths are a select group of large cannabis corporations who want an end to patient self-supply, for the purpose of greater market control and generating more money for themselves. For now, it appears the laptop jockeys, their Internet army and podcasts like Jazz Cabbage Café, Smokin’ Rope, Four20Post and Medical Mondays are winning the fight.
The boycott has brought about the resignation of their President and the removal of his company from the MCMA. Their retail stores are believed to be suffering; some vendors are boasting online about canceling orders with MCMA companies. Michigan cannabis consumers have posted videos of themselves tossing MCMA products in the garbage. The attention has forced the controversial trade group to completely silence their formerly-active media campaign and to hire a new spokesperson for the group. They took down their website and re-launched it, now scrubbed free of any member names or logos.
The term ‘Manufacturer’s’ in the MCMA’s title indicates cultivation, and that seems to be the core of the Association’s membership. Some of the MCMA members are ‘vertically integrated,’ meaning they have both growing and retail facilities. Skymint is one of those companies; they grow cannabis in large centers and sell it in their own stores and through other retailers, too, marketed under the Skymint and North Naturals brand names.
Controversial statements made this year from the MCMA’s leader Steve Linder brought roars of outrage from cannabis patient and caregiver advocates. Other MCMA company leaders also made tragic statements to the press. Over the course of several weeks advocates had used blogs, social media and industry podcasts to call for a boycott or a sanctioning of MCMA members, which promoted the hosts of ‘Medical Mondays’ podcast to create memes featuring the logos of the known MCMA companies. The buzz surrounding the MCMA’s intent to have legislation introduced to curtail the patient/caregiver system was so great, the memes went viral via Instagram.
The memes grew in frequency and in the number of companies targeted for boycott. Suppliers to MCMA companies were added to the boycott memes, which drew attention from CEOs of national companies. Company leaders appeared on ‘Medical Mondays’ to explain how their opinions did not align with the MCMA assault on the patient/caregiver system; their results can be measured in varying degrees of disaster.
The boycott began with citizen sanctions against the named MCMA companies, then sanctions expanded to their suppliers and now has predictably progressed to include those retailers selling products made by any MCMA member. Although the MCMA is believed to have just 12 or 13 members, those dirty dozen are among the state’s largest cannabis entities, and their products are on the shelves of many Michigan retailers. How that boycott expansion will be meme’d out, and how effective targeting hundreds of retailers will be, are unknown.
On Facebook the boycott has taken a positive turn. A list of Michigan cannabis community members supporting a ‘NO CHANGES’ pledge garnered hundreds of virtual signatures in a single day. A follow-up campaign to recruit businesses and organizations to make the same pledge rallied more than one hundred companies in 24 hours, and the online list grows hourly. That list was initiated by the hosts of Jazz Cabbage Café cannabis podcast.
Michigan’s legislature begins their summer recess at the end of business on June 24; they will return to session one day in July and one on August, then resume a full schedule on September 9. The MCMA’s proposed changes to the patient/caregiver system can only be accomplished through legislative action. It appeared they were about to have their controversial bill introduced earlier this year, but that plan seems to have been derailed by cries of foul from podcasters and bloggers during the build-up to the boycott. Now, with the conflict between Internet advocates and multi-millionaires being featured in mainstream media stories, legislative partners are hard to find for the MCMA.
In truth, the MCMA has made it hard for lawmakers to support them for a long time. The trade group has been a target of criticism by the established cannabis community from their inception; Linder is a long-time Republican lobbyist who worked against the cannabis legalization campaigns in 2016 and 2018 in a very vocal and visible manner. After the law was approved by voters in 2018, Linder and others floated a plan to gut the new law, eliminate home growing and establish exclusivity for an elite group of businessmen. Having a cannabis trade group led by a man with Linder’s history was an immediate red flag to activists and governmental watchdogs alike, and the group’s behavior has justified the extra scrutiny given them.
The most visible member of the MCMA is Skymint; they were advertised as ‘Green Peak’ until bad decisions led them to attack the caregiver community in 2019. The company held a rally at the state Capitol Building where caregivers were portrayed in a negative light, a move which damaged their reputation among consumers so badly they had to shed Green Peak and undergo an expensive re-brand of their stores and products as Skymint.
The Internet buzz on Facebook and Instagram has generated responses from across the United States. Other Michigan cannabis trade organizations have been quick to distance themselves from the MCMA’s stain on the industry. The Michigan Cannabis Industry Association is the state’s largest and most influential cannabis lobbying group, with over 300 members in all plant-touching industries. Their Executive Director is Robin Schneider, who recently said her group includes many former caregivers who are now operating in the regulated industry and do not want to see changes made to the patient/caregiver system. Licensed cannabis retailers like The Botanical Company have taken the online pledge to support no changes, as have cannabis cultivators like Real Leaf Solutions and Franklin Fields.
Some companies have always maintained a personal boycott against the MCMA companies, including Redemption Cannabis, founded by Ryan Basore. “I always refused to put my products in their stores from day one,” Basore told The Social Revolution. “I’d rather go out of business.”
You can follow the Medical Mondays podcast HERE
Jazz Cabbage Café cannabis podcast broadcasts live HERE each Tuesday at 4pm EST
Smokin’ Rope broadcasts on Friday of each week HERE
Four20Post is a business-centric podcast on Wednesdays at 1pm EST. Listen HERE