Primitiv Holdings obtains marijuana license

Published 11:00 am Thursday, May 26, 2022

NILES — A local marijuana retailer is under new-but-old ownership.

Primitiv Retail LLC – a state and City of Niles-licensed marijuana retailer owned by Joshua Weinberg – has been sold to Primitiv Holdings LLC, owned by Calvin Johnson, Robert Sims Jr. and Jared Bundgaard. Weinberg helped found Primitiv along with Johnson, Sims Jr. Bundgaard and Adi Twina. 

According to city documents, the change in ownership required a licensing amendment with the Cannabis Regulatory Agency that was approved. The ownership change also requires a new application with the City of Niles for licensing, which was approved by the Niles City Council Monday, May 23.

While Primitiv Retail was always under the Primitiv umbrella, purchasing it outright from their former partner gives Sims Jr. Johnson and Bundgaard full control over all things Primitiv.

“This has been a long time coming,” Sims Jr. said. “There have been a lot of hurdles, a lot of things we had to get through. So for us it just gives us that clear runway to do what we set out to do three years ago. You’ve already seen what we can do, but now we can really just lean into it.”

Last month, Primitiv hosted former Detroit Red Wing and Stanley Cup Champion Darren McCarty for a meet and greet promoting cannabis. Sims Jr., Johnson and Bundgaard see events like that as the first of many as they look to take advantage of their resources.

“I’m such a big believer in what we’re doing,” Sims Jr. said. “You saw what we were able to do with Darren McCarty; we have a ton of friends that we would love to get out here – a lot of people we know from Notre Dame, players and stuff that we just want to be able to showcase. That’s our competitive advantage; we can do that. On top of that, we just want to bring cannabis to Niles at an affordable price. We want everybody to be able to have the medicine that they need.”

Investing in cannabis

Primitiv’s license approval sparked a conversation regarding the marijuana industry in Michigan. Councilwoman Gretchen Bertschy voiced her displeasure with recent changes to marijuana legislation, which removed older legislation requiring marijuana business owners to be Michigan residents for two years before obtaining a license. 

“It struck me that individuals can come into the state and just dump a whole lot of money into a legitimate business niche that people had already taken the time to canvas the community and eyeball buildings, sponsor a tee-ball team, whatever,” she said. “They have come into our state and invested and reached out to become partners with whatever municipality. I’m bothered by the notion that now people can enter this state without having [taken] that step first. They don’t have the due diligence in researching communities.”

Bertschy said that without the residency rule, marijuana businesses will be able to set up in Niles and elsewhere in Michigan without having to engage the community with the potential of negatively impacting the businesses that have.

“They also have the ability to come in with a lot of deep pockets where they can lose money off of it and take our local individuals, who put their time, talent and treasure on the line and reduce the cost of the product so much they can no longer be business people,”she said. “They would have to sell and be bought out by those who have just come into the game. … The only great way our businesses that are partnering with us fairly are going to remain in business is if we engage with them and if our customers find them to provide a service that they will go back to over and over again. That’s a huge aspect of who we are as Niles residents.”

Bertschy asked Sims Jr. how he felt about the change in legislature and if it had affected Primitiv’s business.

“Obviously there’s some things that we wish we could change but we play by the rules,” Sims Jr. said. “We understand there’s always going to be progress as well as things that are out of our controls. … we think there’s a lot of other issues – like social equity – that are good for us to weigh in on as well. So there are some things that we can improve.”

Fellow council member John DiCostanzo understood Bertschy’s point but said he believed that investors should be encouraged to set up shop in Niles, regardless.

“I would not discourage anyone from anywhere coming to our city and investing,” he said. “There are some political issues but I don’t want to give anyone the impression that we do not want outside investments because I, for one, do. I think we need to be careful but we don’t want to discourage people from coming to invest in our city, I think we’ve been attracting outside investors and we need to continue to do it.”