June 8, 2021
Bad actors in the Michigan cannabis industry took another shot to the chin Monday when the President of high-profile seed company DNA Genetics took to the airwaves to distance his organization from the self-destructing industry trade group Michigan Cannabis Manufacturer’s Association (MCMA). The corporations named in the boycott include Kiva Confections, DNA Genetics, Sherbinski’s, Wanna, Crown Jewels, Petra, Jolly, Clout King and Fluresh.
Rezwan Kahn appeared as an unannounced guest on the Medical Mondays podcast June 7. His company supplies genetics and gives cultivation advice to MCMA members; the MCMA was recently outed as pushing lawmakers to rekindle the War on Drugs by ramping up enforcement actions against medical marijuana caregivers, reducing medical patient’s ability to cultivate cannabis and disadvantaging license types which compete with its members. That group’s Executive Director Steve Linder has drawn a fierce response from cannabis consumers, their advocates, and other licensed businesses in Michigan for his unrepentant anti-consumer statements.
Linder’s poorly conceived idea to stomp down the 12-year old medical marijuana program was first revealed by himself in controversial statements made during a string of interviews; was amplified by the voices of other MCMA leaders echoing the same talking points; and was put on full frontal display through the release of lobbying documents outlining the contents of a bill they proposed to legislators for introduction. A decentralized boycott of MCMA member companies ensued, which quickly spread to include the most prominent of MCMA members’ corporate partners. DNA became part of the boycotted group, which drew the attention of the company’s President.
Kahn described himself as an attorney and former black market cannabis cultivator who understands the anger being directed toward MCMA companies. “There’s always going to be an effort to push for the money grab. That’s what they are all going to do,” Kahn offered.
His appearance on Medical Mondays was significant not just because of his stature, but because of the people conducting the interview. Medical Mondays is hosted by Roech and Berg, a duo playing a major role in the boycott’s creation, promotion and expansion. Memes they created are how cannabis consumers are identifying companies to boycott. When asked how he discovered his company had been targeted for boycott, Kahn pointed to the screen and answered, “Because of you two.”
Three other show regulars are heavyweights in the boycott movement: Adam Brook, Jamie Lowell and Rick Thompson. Brook and Thompson and Board members of the NORML of Michigan chapter; Lowell is a principal in the Michigan chapter of Americans for Safe Access. Beyond that, Brook is known internationally as ‘Mr. Hash Bash’; Thompson and Lowell host ‘Jazz Cabbage Café’, an award-winning podcast in its fifth season, and have won numerous awards for advocacy; the trio are among the state’s most recognized cannabis personalities.
After an introduction and segment with show guests Connie Maxim Sparrow and Becky Burton (Canna Social Equity Fund), the conversation went immediately to the boycott.
The MCMA legislative goal sheet, revealed on social media by Lowell, outlined a 75% reduction in patient garden size, an 80% reduction in number of allowable plants for caregivers, mandatory testing of caregiver cannabis and mandatory tracking of caregiver cannabis cultivation and transfers through the METRC system. There are 30,000 caregivers in Michigan servicing 72,000 patients, according to MRA statistics recently quoted in media.
“How can you support this?” asked Roech, of Kahn.
“We don’t,” Kahn replied, in part.
Last week the Instagram account for Jungle Boys featured a public statement from DNA Genetics, Sherbinski’s and the Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce (see below). “DNA Genetics, Sherbinski’s and the Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce Do Not support the views of Steve Linder, the MCMA or any efforts to oppress patients, caregivers or home growers,” the statement reads, later adding: “There’s more than enough to go around. This protectionist behavior needs to stop.”
The statement ends with a call to action. “I’d like to call for the immediate resignation of Steve Linder from the MCMA. This guy obviously doesn’t get it and doesn’t deserve to be drawing a paycheck from this industry.”
Kahn repeated that same message during his Medical Mondays appearance, calling once again for Steve Linder to step down from the MCMA. That plea did little to appease the show panelists, who called on DNA to take action by severing all ties with MCMA member corporations.
Two weeks prior, on Medical Mondays, the President of the MCMA explained why he resigned his leadership position and pulled his company out of the MCMA. Perhaps hoping for a similar commitment from Kahn, the Mondays cast came hard at Kahn, reminding him that as long as his partnership with MCMA members remained, the stain on his corporate identity would remain.
Kahn explained how difficult it is to sever legally-binding agreements on principle alone. At one point he called MCMA member company Green Peak/Skymint a “good partner” in their dealings with DNA. The MCMA is highly secretive about their membership, making it difficult to know who they are. Of the 13 members of the MCMA, only six have confessed to being members; more than half support the MCMA in secret, according to a company statement from Fluresh. It has been that way since the group was created several years ago. When they boycott hit, the MCMA pulled their website offline; the renewed and sanitized site is now back up, scrubbed clean of all corporate identifiers.
Why would companies disavow their allegiance to a trade group they pay potentially millions to support? Because of Steve Linder.
Linder’s history of advocating for anti-cannabis legislation as part of the Michigan Republican team is legendary, and his tactics have earned him more scorn than victories. He created the MCMA, and Green Peak was the group’s most prominent member when that company staged a rally at the Michigan Capitol building in opposition to caregiver cannabis being used in the Michigan regulated marketplace. Most see it as a huge contradiction to have Linder as the front man for a group purporting to want improvements to the state’s cannabis laws.
In business it’s hard to know who you’re dealing with, but in this case, the personalities are pretty predictable, the cast insisted. All this Linder/Green Peak information is searchable, the Mondays cast told Kahn, and he should have known in advance who he was getting in bed with in Michigan. Kahn preferred to speak about solutions, instead of rehashing the past.
Short-term solutions are hard to come by, but this is a long game, the cast insisted. The MCMA anti-patient proposal must certainly be out of favor among lawmakers right now, but this is the first year of a two-year legislative cycle. This bad apple will be back, maybe later this year, maybe in 2022, being pushed by the MCMA or some new iteration thereof. You don’t want to be standing next to these guys when that happens, Kahn was told. He got the message.
This Mondays broadcast is just the latest in a series of significant interviews with Michigan and national cannabis figures regarding Linder and the boycott. Last week’s episode of Jazz Cabbage was completely devoted to this subject; Wednesday’s Four20Post and the Mi Canna Cast shows this week will also be focused on the issue; Ryan Basore’s ‘Smokin’ Rope Podcast’ will feature Lowell and Thompson this week, as will ‘The Darren McCarty Show‘ on superstation WJR. National media, including Weed Talk News, Grown-In, City Pulse and others have featured articles on the boycott and its impact in Michigan. The Berg and Roech memes have been shared untold times on Instagram and other networks.