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Aol News Article: In Detroit, A Weed Academy Blooms

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In Detroit, a Weed Academy Blooms


(Aug. 6) -- From the Motor City to the Mota City! If Detroit experiences an economic comeback, it may owe as much to the chronic as it does to Chrysler.


That's the hope, anyway, according to administrators of the Medical Marijuana Academy, or MMA, a marijuana cultivation clinic located 35 miles northwest of Detroit, in Commerce Township, Mich.


"Our goal is to make Michigan better and increase the economy," said Perry Belcher, a spokesman for MMA. "And having well-educated people grow the best cannabis possible will help."


Perry Prescott, Morgan Belcher

This marijuana plant from the Medical Marijuana Academy in Commerce Township, Mich., may be putting Detroit residents back to work.


With medical marijuana legal in Michigan since April 2009, clinics such as MMA have cropped up around the state, offering budding suppliers, or "caregivers," weekend seminars on how to grow and sell cannabis (known as "mota" and "chronic," among other street names).


MMA, which opened its doors in April and offers courses such as Marijuana Horticulture 101 and Marijuana Cooking and Concentrates 101, says it has graduated more than 200 students from six states. Already, Belcher said, the academy has had a positive effect on the Detroit-area economy.


"What we're seeing is an incredible increase in energy," Belcher told AOL News. "There's a common agreement. People are talking about growing."


Not only is legal marijuana cultivation a salve for Detroit, Belcher said, but it's a stimulant for the world economy: "It's having a domino effect in a great way. It's creating new jobs, and not just here. The money goes right up to the stock market and around the world."


With Detroit's unemployment rate at 14.3 percent, nearly 5 percentage points higher than the national average of 9.5 percent, it would seem prudent for the city to embrace a local industry on the rise. To date, however, the city has yet to come out in support of medical marijuana.


For now, Detroit appears to be taking a wait-and-see attitude. City officials declined to be interviewed for this story.


On the street, meanwhile, Detroit caregivers are reporting a surge of marijuana-related economic activity.


"I'd definitely say it's having a positive effect on the local economy," Gregg Black, a local supplier and owner of FineCaregivers.com, told AOL News. "There are a lot more businesses related to hydroponics opening up."


While business is booming for Black -- he said he has a 12-patient waiting list -- Detroit residents would be hard pressed to find FineCaregivers.com.


"I keep my operation a secret in the neighborhood," he explained, "because if people knew what I was doing, they would have stolen everything."


Black, a second-generation grower who's been in business since March, has spent $2,000 on his garden so far, and noted that caregivers can get started with as little as $500. The biggest expenses, he said, are the lighting system and soil nutrients required for hydroponic production. And to help down-and-out Detroit residents break into the medical marijuana trade, Black has started the Hamtramck Compassion Club, a meet-up at a bar that provides free cultivation lessons.


"There's a lot of opportunity for unemployed people," he said, "and we're trying to assist the little guys out there that don't have the resources."

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