PORTAGE, MI — It was a slip at a roller rink near Kalamazoo that landed Shane Martin in the world of medical marijuana.
Now Martin is running the show as general manager at Doja Provisioning Center in Portage, the cityâ€™s newest medical marijuana dispensary.
Shortly after moving to Battle Creek, Martin was teaching his son to skate at Rollerworld when he broke his leg. As part of treatment for the injury, he was prescribed painkillers. Soon after, Martin felt like he was â€śstarting to lose control of my conscious thoughts,â€ť he said.
â€śI literally got up one day and threw that bottle of pills in the garbage and said Iâ€™ve got to find a better way,” Martin said. “Luckily we had moved to a state that was medically ready to help me out and I got my card.â€ť
Leaving behind a 14-year career as a high school English teacher and football coach, Martin said heâ€™s ready to use his education background to help the patients of Portage find that â€śbetter way.â€ť
He and his staff of six welcomed the public to Doja on Black Friday, Nov. 29. The storefront is located at 4203 E. Centre Ave., near the intersection with South Sprinkle Road.
With products ranging from flower to CBD lotions, budtenders are ready to put store slogan â€śweighing out the possibilitiesâ€ť to work, Martin said.
â€śIâ€™m very on top of educating my staff coming from that teaching background,â€ť he said. â€śI want to make sure they can speak to the product that we have. It is very intimidating for a first-time user to come to a spot like this so itâ€™s really the ability to calm those people down and have that human interaction with them over the counter.â€ť
One week before Dojaâ€™s grand opening, the state banned vaping and forced stores to take vaping products off the shelves until they are further tested for the presence of vitamin E acetate, which the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has linked to a growing number of illnesses and deaths.
The CDC suspects vitamin E acetate of causing 47 deaths and 2,290 illnesses nationwide â€” including one death and 55 cases of illness in Michigan â€” as of Nov. 22, when the stateâ€™s ban went into effect.
Martin estimates the cartridges will not be available for a couple weeks, but Doja will continue to sell batteries for vape pens. Monitoring the onslaught of vaping related hospitalizations has become a top priority, he said.
â€śPretty much the first thing I do every day and the last thing I do before I close my eyes at night is Iâ€™m on top of the news,” Martin said.
Just two days after Doja opened, marijuana made headlines again as Michiganâ€™s recreational sales began in some areas Sunday, Dec. 1, with the first customers standing in lines for hours to visit Ann Arbor dispensaries.
The owners of Doja always had their eye on pivoting to recreational sales, Martin said. The name Doja and the storeâ€™s logo of an old-school postage scale are both nods to cannabis culture.
Any businesses seeking a recreational license to grow more than 1,000 plants, process or sell recreational marijuana must currently be licensed under the stateâ€™s medical marijuana licensing rules.
Michigan voters approved legalizing adult use marijuana in November 2018, but left municipalities with the choice whether to allow or ban the businesses.
Portage Mayor Patricia Randall has expressed support for the medical marijuana industry in the past and attended Dojaâ€™s ribbon-cutting event, as did state Sen. Sean McCann and Kalamazoo County Commissioner Mike Quinn.
Portage and the city of Kalamazoo have taken a â€śdelayed opt-inâ€ť approach thus far.
In the meantime, Doja will exist to serve medical patients, Martin said.
â€śThis, just like teaching, was never about the money,â€ť he said. â€śThis is definitely about helping the person in front of me and watching them leave with a smile.â€ť