Chris Webber to build up to $175 million cannabis compound in southwest Detroit
Chris Webber, an NBA Hall-of-Famer, former University of Michigan basketball star and Detroit native, broke ground Tuesday on the first phase of an estimated $175 million cannabis-focused development in southwest Detroit.
Webber, a 48-year-old cannabis investor, plans to run industry job training through his partnership with West Coast lifestyle brand Cookies, as well as grow cannabis at the 180,000-square-foot development campus dubbed Players Only Holdings, he told Crain’s ahead of the morning groundbreaking event.
Players Only, co-founded with entrepreneur Lavetta Willis, expects the initial development to cost $50 million and finish in March, according to Webber and a news release. The cultivation space is planned to start at 60,000 square feet and range up to 130,000 square feet after three years. There are also plans for a consumption lounge and an 8,000-square-foot dispensary, though as of now it could only sell medical cannabis. Detroit’s recreational industry is still tied up in litigation.
Webber, a 2021 Hall of Fame inductee and a member of UM’s Fab Five in the 1990s, said his goal with the new project is to help those unfairly targeted by the war on drugs, people of color and others in underrepresented communities enter the cannabis industry.
Webber declined to estimate how many people would be trained by the facility, saying it’s too early to predict. He also said the project would create hundreds of jobs, including construction, but could not give a specific number.
“Being from Detroit, I want to make sure we have a positive impact not just with the taxes we pay or the profits or anything like that, but a community impact,” said Webber, who played for the Detroit Pistons, Philadelphia 76ers, Sacramento Kings and others over a 15-year NBA career.
The facility at 2599 22nd St. just off Michigan Avenue will offer job training and placement in the industry as well as programs for getting criminal records expunged and earning a GED. The cannabis education will range from bud tending to cultivation, extraction, marketing and other job areas.
As planned, the cannabis-focused development campus would extend to cover several properties on 9 acres. Business partner and developer Christos Moisides owns the main building but is expected to transfer it to Players Only Holdings.
Players Only has also agreed to an exclusive distribution deal for its branded marijuana products with Gage Growth Corp., one of Michigan’s biggest cannabis operators and soon to be acquired by TerrAscend Corp.
Webber, who owns a cannabis and CBD health company called Webber Wellness, in February launched a $100 million cannabis private equity fund for businesses owned by people of color with Jason Wild, a health care investor and president of New York-based JW Asset Management LLC. The Webber Wild Impact Fund is investing with the goal of addressing equity barriers: White people have gotten the vast majority of cannabis dollars in the relatively new industry across the country — including in Michigan, where the state recently reported that just 3.8 percent of people with ownership interest in recreational businesses in Michigan were Black and 1.5 percent Hispanic or Latino.
Then in May, Webber and Wild’s foundation affiliated with their fund partnered with rapper-turned-cannabis-entrepreneur Berner and his Cookies empire to launch the Cookies University training program. It started in northern California’s Humboldt County, offering a three-month, hands-on curriculum.
“Not only have minorities been excessively punished and incarcerated for cannabis while others profited, but they have had unequal access to education, which perpetuates cycles of low-pay and unemployment. It is crucial that we allow those who have been impacted by the Drug War and racism to participate and benefit from the cannabis industry,” Webber said in a news release announcing Cookies University.
The Detroit Cookies University also extends the presence of Berner’s brand in Michigan. Under a licensing agreement, Gage opened Michigan’s first Cookies store in Detroit last year.
“Not only is Michigan one of the most important markets in the cannabis industry, Detroit is the first city we opened a flagship store in, outside of California,” Berner said in Tuesday’s news release. “I have to salute Chris Webber, Jason Wild, and Lavetta Willis for supporting our vision to build out Cookies U in Humboldt California and extending the program to Detroit …”
Posted By: Crain’s Detroit Business on September 28, 2021. For more information, please click here to read the source article.
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