How Common Citizen is aiming to be an uncommon cannabis company 

click to enlarge Stills from Cannabis for Humanity, a short film commissioned by cannabis company Common Citizen. - COURTESY OF COMMON CITIZEN
  • Courtesy of Common Citizen
  • Stills from Cannabis for Humanity, a short film commissioned by cannabis company Common Citizen.

“Cannabis for humanity” is the motto of the Common Citizen marijuana business operating in Detroit, Flint, Hazel Park, Battle Creek, and Marshall, where the business’s grow facility is located. It’s one of the largest operators in the state, and the folks there seem to take that motto seriously.

For instance, the grow facility uses the Japanese process of kaizen with workers at the forefront of problem-solving to continuously improve the processes there. Recycling is also part of the operation with CO2 (necessary for plant growth) and water both processed for reuse. Natural sunlight is used in the greenhouse in addition to artificial light to grow the plants. It seems that Common Citizen tries as much as it can to alleviate the environmental impacts that have come under fire in the cannabis industry.

The retail outlets, at least the one in Flint where journalists from several states toured last week in a two-day publicity blitz, seem to bridge the personality gap that many dispensaries have. Generally, a first trip to the cannabis store can be disorienting, particularly for those without much experience. At Common Citizen, the area where cannabis is sold includes a few areas where customers or patients can sit down with a representative and discuss what they are looking for and what's available. Cannabis is broken down into four categories, from low to high THC, with a discussion of the desired effect. Terpenes, the aromatic oils in cannabis flowers, and their effect as part of the experience come into the discussion.

Contrary to the less-than-comforting and sometimes industrial feel of many dispensaries, the Flint facility received a 2019 North America Design and Development Gold Award for Retail Store Design from the organization Innovating Commerce Serving Communities. In 2020 Detroit-based GH + A Design Studios was honored with a SHOP! Design Gold Award for Specialty Food and Consumables Retailer and a Store Fixture Award for its work at Common Citizen. Those are pretty heavy accolades for a marijuana store in a relatively small town in the Midwest. One wall in the store features numerous framed photos, quotations, and information about cannabis history. Apparently, the folks at Common Citizen are aiming higher.

They’re definitely aiming at Detroit. Last week’s blitz included events at Detroit’s Shinola Hotel, the Oak & Reel restaurant, and the Jam Handy, where a short film commissioned by Common Citizen, Cannabis for Humanity, premiered. CFH features the stories of Michiganders who use marijuana as part of larger personal and professional endeavors.

Among them is Shannon Baxter, a bodybuilder and personal trainer, who says that cannabis helps with physical recovery after a workout. She tells her clients to “smoke before you come train with me.” Another, Jessica Jackson, lost her job at a large corporation for hosting cannabis kickbacks at her home. Now she is a proprietor of the Copper House Detroit, a bed and breakfast on the west side where use of the herb is welcomed. Her Curvy Cannabis group is a gathering of curvy ladies who get together to enjoy and brainstorm.

Diop Schmake, an athlete, discusses how cannabis has helped him with his mental health. One guy talks about his experience of five years in prison on a conspiracy charge for a marijuana deal where he never even touched the illegal substance. Now he’s working to get into the business, saying “I’ve been through hell and high water with marijuana. I’ll be damned if I’m quitting now.”

Indeed, it’s the opposite of being damned. One woman who prays during the film says that cannabis has enhanced her relationship with God.

It’s at least enhancing the relationship of Common Citizen in its communities. CEO Michael Elias discussed planning for supporting nonprofits across the state. “We have a moral and social obligation to improve the communities that we are in,” he says.

If this all works out, Common Citizen may turn out to be an uncommon corporation.

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