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Michigan Cannabis Business Owners Plan Turkey Giveaway on Thanksgiving Eve

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With the approach of Thanksgiving, where many will surely treat themselves to a toasty and food-filled day, two cannabis professionals with former cannabis convictions in Grand Rapids, Michigan are teaming up to ensure those in need can still enjoy the holiday and keep their bellies full.

The duo—Casey Kornoelje, owner of Pharmhouse Wellness, and Ryan Basore, owner of Redemption Cannabis—are giving away 100 free turkeys the day before Thanksgiving, according to a report from Wood TV.

In late 2018, Michigan legalized the recreational use of cannabis with the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act, which passed with 56 percent of the vote. Following the reform measure, state-licensed sales of recreational cannabis followed, beginning in December 2019. Medical use has been legal in the state for some time, with the passing of the Michigan Compassionate Care Initiative in 2008 with 63 percent voting in favor.

The two business owners were charged with cannabis crimes before adult-use cannabis use was legal statewide.

Kornoelje was charged with felony cannabis manufacturing in 2001 and a misdemeanor possession in 2004, reflecting to Cannabis Business Times that he began growing as soon as he discovered how, though, “I just wasn’t quite as good at concealing it as I was at growing it,” he said.

This led to a disruption in his life, the felony charge on his record sticking with him and stifling many opportunities through the years.

Though, as time pressed forward, things came around, and Kornoelje moved into the “cottage industry” of caregiver cultivation, then to medical dispensing. 

“In 2008, the state of Michigan rolled out the Michigan Medical Marijuana Program,” Kornoelje said. “I immediately enrolled as a caregiver and patient, so I was a patient myself, plus a caregiver of five. That allowed me to grow 72 plants total—72 all in—and I rocked that out from 2008 to this day.”

The state has since ended caregiver sourcing to dispensaries, though Kornoelje still legally grows for himself.

His prior convictions, caregiver experience and Grand Rapids residency helped him and Pharmhouse Wellness through the state and city’s social equity programs, allowing the business to receive zoning priority and fee reductions for its adult-use operations.

Basore moved from the insurance industry to creating Redemption Cannabis Co., though the road hasn’t been an easy one. He left his job in the insurance industry in 2010 to embark on a new journey, becoming one of Michigan’s first cannabis caregivers. But, within three years, Basore would be targeted by federal investigators, charged with cannabis-related crimes and imprisoned.

Lansing State Journal caught up with Basore last year to tell his story, as he recounts that he and the other parties operating a grow operation in a warehouse near Okemos High School, with the knowledge of local officials, believed they were operating within the bounds of the law.

The facility was raided in 2010 by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, and in 2012, Basore and six others, were indicted on charges in connection with the Okemos facility. He ultimately pleaded guilty to two charges and was sentenced to 48 months in federal prison, the longest sentence of all indicted. He ended up serving three years before his release.

He continues working in the industry and now angles his business to help those incarcerated by cannabis laws, contributing a portion of Redemption’s revenue to a nonprofit he set up to help people affected by the war on cannabis. The money goes toward helping folks still imprisoned for cannabis to seek release and to help those already out with career training.

“I’d say about 80 percent of the people I was in there with are back in prison,” he said. “You don’t have any support and you’re set up completely to fail.”

Though, he says he was lucky to have family and friends, and that he wouldn’t feel right not helping others who are experiencing some of the hardships he went through.

Redemption was also possible, in part, because of a $50,000 social equity grant awarded to Basore by the Michigan-based cannabis company, Gage. He was the first recipient of the grant.

“I want to promote the growers … and the people that have been caregivers and the people that love it,” he said. “And not just be some corporate logo.”

Kornoelje spoke on the partnership ahead of the giveaway, “It’s been a rough year for people everywhere with the pandemic and we wanted to do something that might make the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday a bit easier for anyone in need. It’s important for people to know that a cannabis business is not that different than any other business when it comes to supporting the people in our community. Providing this traditional part of a Thanksgiving meal is our honor.”

The pair will kick off the giveaway on Wednesday 9:00 a.m. at Pharmhouse Wellness, located at 833 Wealthy St. SW, and anyone over the age of 18 can pick up a turkey for the holiday.

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