"The direction of the (cannabis) industry and the perception of cannabis is only going one way," Adam Rosenberg says. "It's toward more of a cultural acceptance and more of an understanding of its medicinal benefits."
In 2017 Rosenberg founded Green Wolverine, a University of Michigan (U-M) student organization with the mission of promoting the legal aspects of the cannabis industry. The organization emphasizes that people can enter the industry without ever taking the legal risk of touching or even seeing a marijuana plant. Marketing, real estate, software, hardware, and packaging are some of the industries Rosenberg lists to contextualize the vastness of cannabis-related business opportunities.
"'Cannabis industry' isn't an accurate term because there is a combination of infinite industries within it," Rosenberg says.
Green Wolverine attracted over 100 members in its first semester. Within a few months, the organization became a nonprofit and went national. Rosenberg now serves as executive director of the national organization. There are now Green Wolverine chapters at Washtenaw Community College, U-M Dearborn, University of Maryland, University of California Berkeley, Syracuse University, and Binghamton University.
Rosenberg, 22, wears a button-down shirt, a navy blazer, dress pants, and blue dress socks with white marijuana leaf patterns. An almost unnoticeable diamond-gold pendant dangles by his collar – it's a miniature pot leaf.
"With everything I do, with the way that I come to school everyday, dressed well with pot socks, it's just epitomizing the idea that you can have a career in cannabis, you can have a curiosity of cannabis, and you don't have to be weighed down by stigma," Rosenberg says.
Rosenberg grew up in Birmingham, Michigan, and attended high school at Cranbrook. His mother is an attorney, and his father is a physician who specializes in pain management.
"Of course it is ironic, my path with the cannabis industry," Rosenberg says.
He had planned to be a doctor, and pursued internships and job shadowing in medical facilities. While working in a drug testing lab at a pain center, he noticed how many patients tested positive for THC. He says he "came to this epiphany that my job was ensuring patients were taking opioids and weren't using alternative medicines like cannabis."
This realization led him away from his career path in medicine, and on to deepen his understanding of cannabis by working at Ann Arbor dispensary Liv Wellness. He gained firsthand experience working as a budtender, a person who advises on and dispenses medical marijuana to clients.
That work introduced Rosenberg to the business side of cannabis, which inspired him to apply to U-M's Ross School of Business for his bachelor's degree. He gained confidence to openly discuss his passion for alternative medicine in academia.
He now works alongside fellow students like Juan Aguirre, 22, Green Wolverine's medical research chair, who is a senior in U-M's School of Nursing undergraduate program and a Gates Millenium Scholar. Aguirre wants to go into mental health, and he says his hours of clinical experience have shown him that healthcare professionals know very little about the medical potential of cannabis. He notes that CBD has immense ability to alleviate symptoms of schizophrenia, anxiety, and depression.
When Aguirre graduates he plans to work full-time on Duber, a cannabis education company he and a few friends started in June. The company plans to disseminate information about cannabis through an iOS platform that will include interactive components such as videos and surveys.
In addition to networking and strengthening individual business projects, Green Wolverine has also created public-facing cannabis programming. On Sept. 29 the organization hosted its first Science Symposium, a free public event spotlighting evidence-based research on cannabis. The symposium was presented in collaboration with the U-M School of Nursing, U-M College of Pharmacy, and Ross School of Business.
The cannabis industry could see its next big shift if Michigan voters approve Proposal One, which would legalize marijuana for all uses by those aged 21 and up, in November's election. Rosenberg says he believes the proposal will pass, but Green Wolverine doesn't take a political stance. He says the proposal's failure would simply encourage interesting conversation at Green Wolverine about the political aspects of cannabis.
"The industry is already a decabilion-dollar industry regardless of if Michigan legalizes or not," Rosenberg says.
Afaf Humayun is a reporter, poet, artist, and activist who works to preserve and expand the future of the humanities while staying engaged on issues of inclusion. You can find some of her writings at The Keel Port Huron and The Arab American News. She lives in Ypsilanti.
All photos by Doug Coombe.