Higher Ground: Creature comforts 

Alan and Christi Marshall own 10 English Bulldogs so it seems like a natural extension that the company they own along with Phil Sable would take on that moniker.

Bulldog Provisioning Center even sports a picture of a rather tough-looking bulldog on its logo. But Pullo, the dog wandering the premises the day I visited, was more cuddly than threatening as he waddled about the provisioning center seeking a little affection. Pullo rubbed against the legs of a patient who bent over to scratch his neck on a slow afternoon — apparently they've become pals.

"We want you to feel relaxed when you come in the door," says Alan.

The center is indeed relaxing, with a big stuffed couch and a couple of chairs where you can sit back and put your feet up in a front room where a flat-screen television hangs on the wall. There's a coffee pot and a bowl of candy bars in the corner. Magazines are spread out on a low table and framed photographs adorn the area. It feels like a living room in a modern home, or the waiting room of a particularly comfortable doctor's office.

"I wanted something where I could walk in here with my mother and grandmother and have them feel comfortable," says Christi. "Any caregiver can utilize our facility as a safe access center that is clean, well lit, and comfortable. It shouldn't be a shady, dirty, or intimidating scenario."

Bulldog, tucked in an area off State Street near Briarwood Mall in Ann Arbor, is one of many businesses trying to find their way in an evolving Michigan medical marijuana market.

Any caregiver in the state can use the facility. If they have the proper documents, a caregiver and a patient can use a room at Bulldog to make an exchange. If the caretaker has already weighed and packaged the medication, the whole thing could be at no cost for use of the room. However, if they need to use a scale, packaging materials, or other amenities, there is a sliding scale for costs. The Marshalls say about 50 caregivers use Bulldog each month.

The place has a small retail room where glass pipes, vaporizers, papers, and other paraphernalia can be purchased. Another space dubbed "the pharmacy room" sports a glass counter containing small glass jars containing dried cannabis flowers with names like Strawberry Kush, Apollo 13, Dumpster, and Sour Diesel.

"Cannatonic is probably our highest utilized strain," says Christi.

Cannatonic is a high-CBD Indica strain that many patients find calming. It's favored by veterans who suffer from PTSD, one of the qualifying conditions for medical marijuana in Michigan. Another high-CBD indicator named Black is popular.

These strains are not CBD-only but contain higher amounts of CBD than usual in proportion to the THC found in them. The Marshalls say that 95 percent of the flowers, oils, and infusions available at Bulldog have been tested at places such as Iron Labs in Walled Lake and PSI Labs in Ann Arbor.

There are also topical oils, CO² extractions, e-cigars, infused drinks, and edibles available. They even have Rick Simpson hemp oil.

With that said, Bulldog does not seem like a busy place where a high volume of transactions are taking place or a lot of money is being exchanged. Alan works as a driver for a roofing company, the same company that put the roof on the Meijer store at Eight Mile Road and Woodward Avenue in Detroit.

My sense is that, like numerous others, they are in place and waiting for the state legislature to pass legislation that will allow local municipalities to choose if they will allow provisioning centers or not. Washtenaw County already seems pretty tolerant in that regard, but until the state acts there will still be gray areas where businesses are not entirely sure if it's legally safe to operate. A recent report from California's ArcView Group claims that legal marijuana is the fastest growing industry in America.

"Do you know how many people we could put to work?" asks Christi in reference to a potential statewide industry.

The creature comforts of Bulldog stand in contrast to the hard-edged look of some places around here where security and other concerns add up to a rather uninviting image. Yes, the Marshalls can tell you about all the cameras that are around the place, but they have a place that seems more like home.

God's plant: Texas has a refreshing take in a bill introduced last week that would legalize marijuana in the Lone Star State. Most legalization attempts refer to regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol. The Texas bill, introduced by Republican Rep. David Simpson, would regulate marijuana like "tomatoes, jalapenos, or coffee." Simpson added, "All that God created is good. Let's allow the plant to be utilized for good — helping people with seizures, treating warriors with PTSD, producing fiber and other products — or simply for beauty and enjoyment," Simpson said. "Government prohibition should be for violent actions that harm your neighbor — not of the possession, cultivation, and responsible use of plants."

Last week, Rhode Island legislators jumped on the marijuana bandwagon and introduced a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana in the state. Adult residents would be allowed to have up to one ounce and grow one plant for personal use. Smoking marijuana in public would not be allowed. Rhode Island already has a medical marijuana law. It's not clear how much legislative support the bill has.

Larry Gabriel writes the Stir It Up and Higher Ground columns for Metro Times and is editor of The American Cultivator.

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