One man’s journey to improve Michigan’s troubled cannabis industry

Chris Silva launched a not-so-serious campaign to lead Michigan’s Cannabis Regulatory Agency, but he’s actually got really good ideas

Aug 30, 2022 at 12:13 pm
click to enlarge Chris Silva, a longtime advocate of legal marijuana, launched a campaign to be the next executive director of Michigan's Cannabis Regulatory Agency. - Chris Silva
Chris Silva
Chris Silva, a longtime advocate of legal marijuana, launched a campaign to be the next executive director of Michigan's Cannabis Regulatory Agency.

Few people have more knowledge of Michigan’s cannabis industry than Chris Silva, a longtime advocate of legal marijuana.

The 37-year-old Grand Rapids man launched a social media campaign to replace Andrew Brisbo as the executive director of Michigan’s Cannabis Regulatory Agency. Brisbo, who helped launch the agency and held the job since 2019, is leaving the post to take over as the director of the state’s Bureau of Construction Codes.

Silva is no bureaucrat, and he’s pretty confident that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer won’t appoint him. Plus, he loves cannabis too much to pass a drug test.

But his tongue-and-cheek campaign has serious intentions: The nearly three-year-old recreational cannabis industry in Michigan is experiencing growing pains and scandals. Small business operators are having trouble competing with larger corporations that are driving down the price of cannabis to the point that some dispensaries and growers are selling their product at a loss.

In November 2021, the state agency recalled $229 million dollars worth of marijuana because Viridis Laboratories and Viridis North, which were launched by three former cops, were accused of producing inaccurate results.

In May, Viridis Laboratories was accused of fraudulently inflating THC levels.

Silva and Kyle Miller co-host a podcast called ChadWatch, which examines “corrupt, deceptive and potentially dangerous practices affecting Michigan consumers.”

Chads are the out-of-touch, money-grubbing suits who got into the industry just to make money.

“We need to have a set of rules that treats everyone fairly, and we need an even playing field,” Silva tells Metro Times. “Scumbags hate rules. The best way to fuck with these Chads is to have a system that works and is accountable.”

Silva says the industry needs a strong leader who will create more transparency and better testing standards, hold bad actors accountable, and help smaller businesses compete in the cut-throat industry.

“This industry was created and fostered by people who are good people, who are doing this because they were sick and tired of people going to jail for this,” Silva said on his podcast. “They were sick and tired of people’s lives being destroyed. This was an opportunity for a lot of people to have the freedom to create a business and do something entrepreneurial and to better themselves and their community.”

Silva’s Facebook video announcing his campaign to be the next executive director racked up more than 2,700 views.

“He certainly has the experience and resume!” Roy Liskey wrote on Facebook. “It would be nice to have someone who knows the industry from the operator side.”

Silva’s resume is impressive. A longtime cannabis activist, Silva played a key role in legalizing marijuana in the state and has helped social equity applicants and people looking to expunge their marijuana-related records. He’s currently a sales account manager for Redemption Cannabis.

David Hearns, a spokesman for the Cannabis Regulatory Agency, says it’s not clear yet when Whitmer will appoint the next executive director.

With more than 1,000 dispensaries across the state, and new communities beginning to embrace recreational cannabis, Silva said the next director will play an important role in determining the direction of the industry.

“We’re at a crossroads in this industry, and it could go either way in the future,” Silva says. 
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