Family-owned and 100% Michigan-made medical cannabis company The WellFlower not only is becoming a big player in the medical and recreational cannabis industry, but also is an advocate for medical-grade cannabis as an alternative to opiate use.
The WellFlower was founded by cousins Trent and Rob McCurren, M.D., who respectively bring marketing and medical experience to the operation. Trent McCurren is a former marketing executive with experience working for companies like Johnson & Johnson and Yellow Tail Wines. He most recently served as vice president of marketing for Founders Brewing Company.
“For a marketing guy, building a brand from the bottom up is extremely satisfactory,” Trent McCurren said.
Trent McCurren added his cousin provided more inspiration for wanting to get into medicinal cannabis, and he believed cannabis offered much better health benefits than his previous work in the alcoholic beverage industry.
Rob McCurren is a former ER physician who received his training from the University of Michigan, as well as a former executive for Henry Ford Health Systems.
For the physician of the group, discovering the medicinal benefits of cannabis came from a family health crisis. While he was in the process of looking for his next career jump, Rob McCurren’s first wife Maureen was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.
“That was a tough medical situation,” Rob McCurren said. “You’re really just buying time and figuring out how much you have with chemotherapy. At that time, my wife got connected with a medical dispensary in Ann Arbor, and she found it was helpful in terms of decreasing her need for pain suppressants. I believe it significantly reduced her suffering and extended her quality of life.”
Rob McCurren started looking into the real estate aspect of medical cannabis and decided to leave the traditional health care sector to start the business. Around the same time, in 2018, Trent McCurren decided to leave Founders and make a new career move as well.
“We found our skills were complementary, and we could come together to make this thing fly,” Rob McCurren said.
The McCurrens spent about another nine months formulating a strategy, including growth, processing and retail distribution, as well as putting together local partnerships that led to the portfolio WellFlower has currently.
While the main focus of WellFlower is on providing and promoting medical cannabis for patients and medical professionals, the company provides recreational products as well. Rob McCurren said the rapidly emerging cannabis market cannot allow WellFlower to remain separate from adult-use retail and viably compete with other cannabis businesses.
“We want to be the top-tier source for people who are seeking medical cannabis, but we will be providing a lot of high-quality, safe products for recreational users,” he said. “Right now, it’s been an absolute rush to adult use, and people are trying to move as much product as possible, where we’re trying to target a little bit more demographically.”
WellFlower currently operates a 12,000-square-foot grow facility that can grow between 1,000 and 1,500 plants, as well as a processing facility in Bangor. Medical and retail customers can purchase WellFlower products out of its dispensary in Big Rapids.
The company has major plans to spread throughout Michigan with another store under development in Manistee and another 10,000-square-foot grow facility under development in Harrison Township.
On the prospect list, WellFlower has three locations its applied for in Pontiac, one location in Ypsilanti and another in Muskegon.
Compared to municipalities on the east side of the state, the owners of WellFlower found Grand Rapids and other West Michigan municipalities are more cautious and conservative when it comes to permitting for cannabis businesses.
“I think a lot of the reticence is just predicated on misconceptions to what cannabis is,” Trent McCurren said.
Rob McCurren echoed the observation, saying there was a real strong sentiment in some communities that, even though they were moving in the direction of approval, they wanted to wait it out and see how other communities fared.
Part of WellFlower’s work, as a medical provisioner, is educating the public, not only about the safety of cannabis use, but how it also can be an alternative to more dangerous drugs like opiates.
“There is, I would say, a market of people who are cannabis curious, but they’re scared because they don’t know what to do or where to get it,’ Rob McCurren said. “They may have smoked some bad weed in college and are scared from that experience.”
Even in the medical community, there are many health care providers who are opposed because there isn’t enough research out there to promote it with confidence, Rob McCurren added.
From his own experience with his late wife’s cancer treatment, Rob McCurren became a strong proponent in medical cannabis’ ability to alleviate the pain and nausea associated with chemotherapy.
In addition to the state-approved uses for medical cannabis, like treatment for glaucoma, seizures and inflammatory pain, Rob McCurren touted cannabis as a treatment for insomnia and gastrointestinal issues.
“The other major thing is, unlike even Tylenol or ibuprofen, cannabis has no significant side effects from the standpoint of overdose and dependence,” he said.
WellFlower also gives comprehensive training to employees at its dispensary locations to consult customers.
“Our intention is to have the ability for all our customers to have easy access to higher level consultation,” Rob McCurren said. “That would get them an appointment with a very experienced cannabis care professional, which includes myself and another couple of people at this point.”
WellFlower employs about 25 people, among its leadership, grow facility and Bangor storefront, and hopes to grow to 50 or 75 by the end of 2021.