As someone who lives with anxiety, depression, and PTSD, I can tell you I'd do just about anything to get relief from my symptoms. The insomnia and panic attacks aren't just inconvenient, they're disruptive. With the fairly recent legalization of recreational cannabis, and it's seemingly miraculous ability to cure what ails you, I have often wondered if I could find a product somewhere in the world of cannabis that would, at the very least, help me sleep. Of course, I know nothing about cannabis, and having been raised by a Boomer mother who held fast to the Reefer Madness type propaganda that marijuana is a gateway to hard drugs (and murder), I do carry a bit of healthy skepticism (and fear?) of the world of recreational cannabis. How do I know what's in the product? How do I know it's safe? What the hell does Full Spectrum mean, anyway? I took these questions and more to the great people at Exclusive Brands, an Ann Arbor based cannabis shop that has expanded to a location in Kalamazoo at 937 Foster Avenue. Their grand opening is Thursday, September 10th.

After being greeted by a member of their curb-side crew, I made my way in through the back door to find my contact, Narmin Jarrous, Executive Vice President of Business Development and Director of Social Equity for Exclusive Brands. Jarrous freely admits that she was the square kid in school; never drank or did drugs. So why exactly did she get in to the recreational cannabis industry? "To help people," she stated. Having experienced chronic pain since her teens, rather than taking opiates for pain management, Jarrous chose cannabis and never looked back. Although cannabis isn't a panacea, Jarrous and others like her have seen dramatic results from cannabis. "At Exclusive Brands, we want to make clean, safe, tested cannabis accessible to everybody regardless of price or where they live." (And she does mean everyone. They even have sugar-free edibles for customers who have to watch their blood sugar.) I explained my ailments and wondered if she could help me, to which she replied, enthusiastically, "Don't ask me! Ask your Budtender!"

Stefani Bishop

Yes, a Budtender. I love a good pun. My Budtender was Srikar who turned out to be a veritable font of cannabis knowledge. Edibles, flower, vapes, concentrates dermal patches, pens (who knew?), all from 2.5 milligram dosages to 200 milligrams - and Srikar could tell you about it ALL. He explained that Exclusive Brands isn't just a storefront. Although they do carry of a lot of recognized and trusted brands, they also have a manufacturing plant wherein they make their own product lines to ensure quality' products like an edible, Kushy Punch, which comes in many flavors and varieties, and, something I quite liked, 10 milligram squares for "micro-dosing" so you can control the amount. How many times have you heard horror stories of someone eating too much of an edible and NOT having the best time? The micro-dosing really helps you not go in to territory you're uncomfortable with. Speaking of which...

Srikar and Narmin were both very adamant that they're job is not to sell something, which is confusing, and the exact opposite of retailers' missions across the board. Their job, they said, is to find out what your needs and wants are and provide you with nothing more than that. No up-selling. "We're not used car salesmen," Narmin joked, referring to the what's-it-gonna-take-to-get-you-to-sign-these-papers high-pressure sales approach. Ultimately they want their customers to to feel thoroughly listened to and taken care of. And I was, I have to say. My fears were assuaged and having an expert like Srikar to guide me really took the guesswork and mystery out of the whole experience.

Stefani Bishop

So. Here's what I learned from my first trip to a recreational cannabis shop:

  • Don't be afraid to ask questions. They have products you probably have never heard of that could be exactly what you're looking for.
  • Be clear about what you want AND what you don't want. I want to be able to sleep without feeling stoned. I want to take some of the edge off my anxiety without losing focus and attention. Be as specific as possible and you will get the product you're looking for.
  • Bring cash. I totally forgot that banking is federal, and since cannabis is not yet legal on the federal level, they can only accept cash payments. No cards. They have an ATM on site for customer use.
  • Even though it's curb-side right now due to Covid, you can still consult a Budtender. Call them up and ask away! Get expert advise before placing your order. Trust me, they are so happy to help. (269-447-1779)

Obviously, I just got back from the Exclusive Brands tour, so I can't comment on the products themselves, but I can say that their knowledgeable and super friendly staff made me so comfortable and welcome. That having been said, join me in welcoming Exclusive Brands to Kalamazoo. They're open 9:00am to 9:00pm every day at 937 Foster Avenue.