Cannabis company Pleasantrees launches ‘battle of the bands’-style contest to cultivate Detroit artists

click to enlarge Pleasantrees is partnering with the Crofoot for the Potency Test. - COURTESY PHOTO
Courtesy photo
Pleasantrees is partnering with the Crofoot for the Potency Test.

Years ago, Metro Times reported on Benjamin Sobczak as his alter ego, rapper Ben Miles, who performed as frontman of the hip-hop group Mice & Musicians. Sobczak has since ended his music career to work for a white-shoe law firm as a commercial litigator.

A self-described lifelong “very functional cannabis user,” he started taking on more and more cannabis clients in Michigan’s blossoming new licensed industry, and eventually, all of his clients were cannabis companies. In 2020, he left the firm to pursue cannabis law full-time as the in-house general counsel for Michigan-based Pleasantrees — just a year away from becoming an equity partner at the firm.

“People thought I was insane,” he tells Metro Times. “But I was just like, dude, you gotta chase your dream. And it just felt like a better way for me to both be myself and to continue to practice in this exciting new area of law that I believed in.”

Sobczak says one of the things that he wanted to do at Pleasantrees was to find a way to give back to Detroit’s music scene. That led to the creation of the Potency Test, a new “battle of the bands”-style event planned for the Crofoot in Pontiac in April.

“Cannabis is a big part of the art scene,” he says. “I wanted to be able to get involved again in some meaningful way — and use the company as a platform to use the skills I had developed in terms of promoting shows or connections in the art scene to do good — and to be involved and to feel connectivity with music the way I used to when I was younger, and I was the one performing.”

Winners of the event will be awarded $5,000 cash, as well as recording time at The Village Studios. Sobczak says he wishes he had that opportunity when he was younger.

“When I was struggling in a band and we were recording in some basement with train tracks behind it, to be able to go somewhere top-notch and see how good you can sound with the right sound guy and the right mastering, like not having to fight so hard to bootstrap that shit … that would have been incredible,” he says.

Sobczak goes way back with the Crofoot. He performed his first-ever show at the Crofoot’s Pike Room, and despite getting in a very lawyerly dispute with the management over a toilet that was apparently broken by a rowdy fan (it’s a long story), Sobczak eventually grew close with the venue’s booker, Justin Pidruzny, and even held his wedding at the venue.

“Ben and I both talked about how we want [Potency Test] to be a situation where it really supports the bands in our community, and makes them feel appreciated,” says Pidruzny, who got his start in the music business from playing in a local rock band. “It’s just kind of like an opportunity to give back.”

Artists can register through opnrmusic.com, a local music company that developed a platform to connect artists with performance opportunities. Entries are due by Saturday, Feb. 25, and selected artists will move on to perform on Saturday, April 9 at the Crofoot, where a panel of guest judges will pick a winner. (Sobczak says he’s in talks with special guest judges including White Boy Rick, the former teenage FBI informant recently played by Eminem in BMF on Starz, and Melanie Rutherford, newly elected to Pontiac’s City Council, who is also a singer-songwriter who appeared on Kem’s Grammy-nominated record “Intimacy.”)

Sobczak says he hopes to draw submissions from artists across genres and eventually to grow the Potency Test into a quarterly event, releasing Pleasantrees-branded compilation albums of all the winners. He says he also hopes to keep cover for the Pontiac event low, and plans to give proceeds to charity.

Sobczak says with the cannabis industry exploding, it’s only right to give back.

Plus, music and cannabis just go together. The culture of cannabis can seem to get lost in some of these sleek new dispensaries that feel more like sleek Apple Stores than the head shops of the old days.

“One of the things that we really like to say about ourselves is that we are cannabis people who started a business,” Sobczak says of the team at Pleasantrees. “We are not business people who got into cannabis.”

He adds, “I do think that there’s an obligation not just to support social equity or righting the ills of the war on drugs, but like what we’re doing here just to support the scene, the artists, the musicians, and the creatives. You know, cannabis has been a big part of that for a long time.”

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About The Author

Lee DeVito

Leyland "Lee" DeVito grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, where he read Metro Times religiously due to teenaged-induced boredom. He became a contributing writer for Metro Times in 2009, and Editor in Chief in 2016. In addition to writing, he also supplies occasional illustrations. His writing has been published...
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