Grand Rapids dispensary Pharmhouse wins award for equity plan

GRAND RAPIDS — A Grand Rapids dispensary run by an owner with an expunged cannabis felony landed the state’s first award for social equity efforts this week.

Casey Kornoelje of Pharmhouse Wellness was presented Wednesday with the gold-tier award in Michigan’s Social Equity All-Star Program, launched in May by the state Cannabis Regulatory Agency (CRA) to address issues of equity in recreational cannabis. Kornoelje accepted the award in a press event at his shop with Andrew Brisbo, executive director of the CRA.

Kornoelje and his wife, Megan, opened the dispensary at 831 Wealthy St. SW in March 2020 to provide medicinal cannabis. They expanded to recreational sales in December 2020.

Brisbo said Pharmhouse was a clear winner for the inaugural award due to the work they’ve already been doing to address equity in the cannabis space.

“They clearly were already engaging in all of these activities and behaviors that we want to encourage, and they were able to submit their plan quickly, because they didn’t have to do anything differently,” Brisbo said. “They just had to document what was already happening here.”

The Pharmhouse origin story, according to its website, begins with Kornoelje growing cannabis in his bedroom in high school before it was legal in Michigan, resulting in a felony conviction in 2002 and a misdemeanor charge in 2004. After Michigan voters legalized cannabis in a 2018 ballot measure, Kornoelje set out to get his license and eventually had his record expunged.

The CRA’s new equity program bills itself as an olive branch to those like Kornoelje with prior convictions, especially “people from communities that have been disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition and enforcement,” according to its mission statement.

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