BUCHANAN, Mich. (WNDU) - There are 82 medical marijuana dispensaries in the state of Michigan but none in the southwest corner of the state. At least not yet.
That’ll change next Wednesday, May 22, when Zen Leaf dispensary opens its doors to medical marijuana cardholders.
It has all the elements of a "mind-blowing moment."
Not so long ago, there was no such thing as a legitimate way to sell pot. Now, it’s poised to happen out of a storefront in the heart of downtown Buchanan, at 259 E. Front St.
“I’m from the Michigan City area, but I started in Colorado, so being there in 2010 through 2017, I saw the transformation of what people’s opinions are about this, about this industry,” Zen Leaf General Manager Billy Breen said. “Now, people are seeing this as a true form of medicine.”
“I’m also the police chief here in the community, and I’ve been in law enforcement for 40 years,” Buchanan City Manager and Police Chief William Marx said. “I fought marijuana for 40 years, and it was ingrained in me that it’s bad.”
Now, it’s viewed as a good way to fill vacant storefronts in downtown Buchanan. There are six in the 200 block of Front Street alone. Buchanan city government has awarded a total of five permits for proposed medical marijuana dispensaries, including Zen Leaf.
“These individual businesses have jumped through so many hoops to get to where they are right now, I'd have to say the public can trust these are not fly-by-night individuals,” Marx said.
Turns out, some of "these individuals" at Zen Leaf are your neighbors.
“I was searching for more of a full-time job, working at a winery is kind of just weekend work anyway,” said Zen Leaf employee Lydia Applewhite, of Berrien Springs. “And I saw this and I was just like, 'Wow, why wouldn't I want to work here? Why wouldn’t I want to be part of this huge change in positive light for the community?'”
Olivia Pesek, of Niles, said she worked at a Mishawaka brewery for four years but is now the patient caretaker-adviser at Zen Leaf.
“I just think it’s a very progressive industry," she said. "It’s just really important that we bring something a bit more local for those patients who are driving way out of the way, hours, just to get something to help them live their everyday life.”
Breen said he bought the building that houses Zen Leaf and that it had been vacant since the closing of the Buck Town Tap.
“This is a place of love and caring and medicine, and our entire goal is the reason why we do this -- everybody here and my partners and colleagues -- is to help provide a better quality of life to all those that need it,” he said.
The public is invited to a ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday, May 18, at 11:30 a.m., after which public tours of the building will be offered until 4 p.m.
There is no product on premises at this time.