LaCannaville: A Story of Community Revival and Cannabis in Midland County

December 8th, 2023 Business & Industry
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Upon entering LaCannaville, the newest cannabis dispensary in Midland County, Michigan, customers are immediately enveloped in a rich tapestry of scents ranging from the unmistakable aroma of marijuana to subtler floral and basil notes. This sensory introduction marks the beginning of a unique shopping experience, guided by knowledgeable budtenders who take the time to understand each customer's preferences and needs before recommending suitable products.

The dispensary, a venture by Sue LaBonville and her son, Kaleb, stands as a testament to an unexpected career turn for LaBonville, who retired in 2021. Initially distant from the world of cannabis, her perspective shifted after witnessing its therapeutic benefits for her sister, who has an autoimmune disease. Despite the surprise of her friends, LaBonville became a prominent figure in her community's cannabis industry.

The inspiration for LaCannaville was born out of the desire to contribute to the recovery of Sanford, their hometown, which was hit hard by COVID-19 and the 2020 floods. Kaleb's suggestion to explore the cannabis industry led to their mission of establishing a distinctive destination business, which they believed would help rejuvenate Sanford and attract visitors.

LaBonville's research revealed a diverse clientele, including professionals, working-class individuals, and a significant segment of older customers seeking relief from various ailments. This diversity is reflected in LaCannaville's customer base.

The journey culminated in the opening of LaCannaville in November, shortly before Thanksgiving. It became the second cannabis dispensary in Midland County, following the opening of Emerald Fire Provisioning Center in Coleman in 2022. Since its inception, LaCannaville has experienced a thriving business, drawing customers from local and neighboring areas for its convenience and selection.

LaBonville is particularly moved by the impact of her products on customers suffering from conditions like arthritis, ALS, and lupus. Her personal interactions with customers seeking relief are both poignant and affirming of her business's purpose.

The decision to open LaCannaville followed Sanford's village council voting to opt into state statutes allowing retail cannabis sales, with LaBonville's vision for the dispensary winning unanimous support from the council. However, navigating the cannabis industry in Michigan is challenging, with strict regulations, heavy taxation, and limited financial services due to cannabis's Schedule I status.

Despite these challenges, LaBonville's business acumen gives her an edge in Michigan's burgeoning marijuana market. The state's cannabis industry is expected to generate significant revenue, with Michigan poised to become the second-largest market in the U.S. LaBonville remains committed to maintaining her business's independence and contributing to her community, despite the competitive pricing and market pressures.

LaCannaville not only serves its customers but also aims to enhance Sanford's appeal. The dispensary's website features local attractions, encouraging visitors to explore the community further. This approach aligns with LaBonville's belief that every dollar spent on cannabis in Sanford could boost local businesses.

The dispensary, managed by Matt Dawson, a local who was part of the anti-drug DARE campaign, now sees cannabis as a unifying and healing element. He advocates for education about cannabis, challenging stereotypes and misconceptions, particularly those associated with the outdated notion of marijuana as a gateway drug. Research from the Michigan Cannabis Regulatory Agency supports this stance, indicating that marijuana use is not a primary factor in the choice to use illicit drugs.

LaCannaville represents more than just a cannabis dispensary; it's a symbol of resilience, community support, and a shift in societal attitudes towards cannabis. It's a place where education, healing, and community revitalization intersect, demonstrating the evolving role of cannabis in modern society.

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