Food Service & Agriculture, Health Care, and Retail

Keef looks to roll into Michigan

Cannabis-infused beverage company has offered medicinal products in state since August.

January 18, 2019
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Keef Sparkling Blood Orange
Courtesy Keef Brands

The legalization of recreational marijuana in Michigan has been a long time coming for Keef Brands, a Colorado-based cannabis beverage company.

Proposal 1, to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use, has only been in the books for a short while, but Keef founder and CEO Erik Knutson said his company has been eyeing Michigan as a prospective market since December 2017, and the company was given clearance to operate medically in the state in August 2018, just a few months before the midterm elections.

Keef has a full line of 10-100 milligram THC-infused sodas and sparkling waters, as well as some stronger formulations called Keef Life (100 mg) and Keef Shots (300 mg) available as of this month.

More notably, Keef partnered with CERIA Brewing Company in Colorado to produce Grainwave, a nonalcoholic Belgian-style white ale infused with 5 milligrams of THC.

CERIA does have plans to expand into Michigan, but because of various moratoria on recreational use enacted by local governments, the rollout has been slow, so Keef is uncertain when Michigan will see its first THC-infused beer on store shelves.

Keef’s regular lineup of products, including drinks and vape pens, still are available in Michigan under the medical designation. While the establishment of recreational cannabis businesses remains locked in a stalemate, Keef’s sodas and sparkling waters surf the line between medical and recreational use, Knutson said.

“They work in both markets,” Knutson said. “They are allowed under medical rule. The beer definitely is further on the scale.”

Knutson said patients with chronic illnesses tend to enjoy drinks more because they’re easier to consume than edibles.

As for the recreational benefits of cannabis drinks, Knutson said liquid delivery often results in a faster onset and decreased duration as opposed to consuming edibles.

After Proposal 1 passed statewide in November, several local municipalities, including Kentwood and Walker, responded by taking preventive steps to establish recreational marijuana facilities within their city boundaries.

According to earlier Business Journal reports, just days after Michigan residents went to the polls to vote in favor of the legalization of recreational marijuana, the city of Kentwood proposed ordinance amendments to prevent the operation of marijuana businesses in the city.

Kentwood Mayor Stephen Kepley at the time told the Business Journal the city needed time to see how the process would develop statewide.

“We owe it to our residents to be cautious and thoughtful on how these establishments may or may not be introduced into our community,” Kepley said.

Walker Mayor Mark Huizenga said the city’s decision was mainly based on the recommendations the Walker Police Department provided after it conducted research with Colorado law enforcement, claiming an increase in marijuana-related accidents and addiction.

Knutson is no stranger to pushback, saying the biggest legal issue for Keef is often local municipalities pushing against the establishment of local businesses, even in his home state.

“We ran into a similar issue in Colorado, one of our largest markets,” he said. “We have Fort Collins that did not allow it for a time … the governments are just out of touch.”

Keef Brands was founded in 2010 in Boulder, Colorado, and produces a variety of other cannabis-infused products, including edibles and CO2-extracted oil for vape cartridges.

Keef products currently are available at over 800 dispensaries across Colorado, California, Arizona, Nevada, Jamaica and Puerto Rico.

Keef’s Bubba Kush Root Beer also won first place in the edible category at the 2015 High Times Cannabis Cup in Denver.

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