Former Battle Creek Caregivers Advocate for 'Clean' Cannabis Across Michigan

June 11th, 2024 Business & Industry
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Five years ago, Melanie White-Lavender and her husband, Matt Lavender, began cultivating cannabis in their barn in southwest Michigan. What started as a modest caregiver operation aimed at helping a few patients has blossomed into a significant business driven by a mission to provide high-quality, clean cannabis to those who need it most.

The couple's journey into cannabis cultivation was deeply personal. White-Lavender's father, diagnosed with cancer, found relief in cannabis, allowing him to abandon pharmaceuticals and remain comfortable in his final years. Similarly, a close family friend, who survived a near-fatal motorcycle accident, used cannabis edibles to manage his pain and eventually made a full recovery.

"We've always believed more in the medicinal side of cannabis and treating it like the medicine that it is for so many people," White-Lavender said. "It's always been about helping people."

These experiences inspired the Lavenders to leave their day jobs in 2019 and launch Evolution Cannabis, a name reflecting their growing and evolving operation.

From Small Caregiver Operation to Major Producer

Today, Evolution Cannabis operates on a much larger scale while maintaining its original mission. The company expects to harvest over 10,000 pounds of cannabis this year from its 30,000-square-foot cultivation campus near Battle Creek. An on-site lab produces more than 36 million cannabis-infused gummies annually, distributed to nearly 200 dispensaries across Michigan. Additionally, with two House of Evolution dispensaries open and two more set to launch this year, the Lavenders have established a comprehensive supply chain.

"We just want to send people away with a great cannabis experience," White-Lavender said. "It's all about good vibes with us. We don't just churn and burn through our products. We don't cut corners. You need to treat these plants right, and a lot of that is just about having the right people, and keeping eyes, and ears, and all the attention on them."

Commitment to Quality and Safety

Despite their rapid growth, Evolution Cannabis has maintained a strong commitment to quality and safety. This includes stringent measures like requiring all staff and visitors to don protective gear and pass through an industrial air blower chamber to prevent contamination.

Automation plays a significant role in their cultivation process, allowing the staff to monitor and adjust light, airflow, temperature, humidity, and nutrient flow using a single iPad. This meticulous control ensures potent and flavorful harvests.

The company's products include vegan and gluten-free edibles made from scratch with natural ingredients, reflecting their dedication to quality and health.

"Many of our clientele are cancer patients and people with real medical needs, so we always take our time to do things the right way," White-Lavender said. "That's super important for us."

Avoiding Remediation for Purity

Evolution Cannabis stands out in the industry by refusing to remediate their cannabis—a process used to remove contaminants but which can negatively affect flavor, potency, and texture. By relying on their rigorous cultivation and processing standards, they aim to produce cleaner and more flavorful cannabis without the need for remediation, even if it means taking on greater business risks.

"Everybody cares about low prices, and it's getting to the point where some of this bottom-barrel stuff out there could really hurt people," White-Lavender said. "I'd love to be swimming in money right now, but this isn't about that. This is about giving people the best—and cleanest—product."

Looking Ahead

As Michigan's cannabis market continues to grow, White-Lavender hopes more consumers will recognize the value of brands that prioritize quality and safety. She envisions a "Clean Cannabis Campaign" to encourage other Michigan brands to adopt similar standards.

"Let's face it. It's hard to stay relevant in this market," she said. "We don't have giant pockets. We don't have the same crazy marketing budget as everybody else. We're keeping things tight because we're focused on the products, and we care about customers' pocketbooks as well. We want to offer a high-end product at an affordable price, and that's not always easy, but we're not quitters. There's a reason we've been able to come this far, and we're not going anywhere."

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