Mind-boggled by marijuana mainstreaming | News, Sports, Jobs

“It is what it is.”

Gosh, I used to hate that phrase whenever one of my two sons would use it to explain away something I disagreed with them about.

Like most phrases I disliked at first, it eventually worked its way into an acceptable part of my vocabulary, so much so that I often would even use it much like sons all those years ago.

The phrase came to mind earlier this week after a visit to one of the stores at the Alpena Mall.

As I pulled out of the parking lot, I looked over at the former Burger King. Where once the aroma of char-broiled beef and chicken would flow out from inside the kitchen, today, the structure stands barren, with a seemingly endless amount of green tufts of grass sprouting up in the parking lot, threatening to strangle the concrete, if that were even possible.

It is an ugly reminder that stands guard along the main thoroughfare that traverses Northeast Michigan of what soon can happen if left neglected.

As I sat waiting to pull out onto the highway, I looked across the street to a billboard that advertised cannabis — today’s equivalent of the Beverly Hillbillies’ “Black Gold.” As I did, I thought to myself that I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the former fast food restaurant reinvented itself as a dispensary and gave an ironic new meaning to “munchies.”

I hope I don’t sound like an old fogey, here, but never in my wildest dreams and days in the 1960s and ’70s could I ever have imagined a time when obtaining cannabis would be as simple as running to the corner store.

It boggles my mind to think that, in Washington state, there is a “Joints for Jab” program. There, state officials are allowing marijuana stores to offer COVID-19 vaccinations, and anyone who gets a vaccine also can get one pre-rolled marijuana joint.

Today, the growth of the cannabis industry is indeed big business, and, for many a community, it not only is helping put people to work but it is generating significant tax dollars. Economic developers no longer are laughing off interest from entrepreneurs as being just a “pot shop” hobby, but, rather, looking to the industry with new perspective and acceptance.

Yet, it still boggles my mind.

Even our institutions of higher learning have not ignored the potential from the new and growing industry.

Lake Superior State University officials in 2019 opened the Cannabis Center of Excellence, which was the first cannabis chemistry program in the nation. It’s not necessarily something I want to run out and exclaim on a bumper sticker.

According to university officials, in April of this year, the center announced its first cannabis chemistry scholarship worth an annual $1,200. The scholarship is through an endowed annual scholarship fund of $25,000 held in perpetuity.

The scholarship was funded by Wheelhouse Cannabis Co., based in nearby DeTour Village, whose president/CEO, Chase Horsburgh, believes the university is well-positioned to meet the needs of the industry for years to come by supplying a group of well-trained graduates each year.

“As the cannabis industry continues transitioning into the mainstream, LSSU will be integral in feeding the national talent pool with formally educated graduates,” Horsburgh said in a recent press release.

As I sit back and read about, then watch, what is occurring with this new industry, I will admit to you that I probably still am amazed by the fact of how “mainstream” it has become.

Then again, “it is what it is” in these crazy times in which we find ourselves living today.

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