Behind every cannabis venture is a fleet of discreet cargo vans, whizzing down the highways with hundreds of pounds of marijuana.
MICHIGAN—Somewhere on I-96 outside of Detroit, there’s a nondescript white cargo van zipping down the fast lane, filled with hundreds of pounds of drugs—and a whole lot of cash too.
There’s another headed down I-94 toward Kalamazoo, and a third van is making its way to Jackson before it hits the road to Niles. Yet another shipment will soon be en route to Kalkaska. And later this week, another delivery is set to cross over the Mighty Mac, destined for Ironwood.
Passing drivers could be forgiven for thinking that these mostly featureless vans are just another florist en route to a wedding, or an exterminator on the way to another ant infestation.
After all, that’s sort of the point.
Inconspicuousness can be a valuable asset in Michigan’s multi-billion dollar cannabis industry. And with more than 365,000 pounds of marijuana products legally sold on the licensed market in the last month alone, these vans have been spending a lot of time on the road in Michigan.
“They’re not armored cars or anything like that. They don’t look any different from a plumber’s vehicle or a painter’s vehicle,” said Lindsay Feehan, co-owner of Emerald Secure Transportation. “It’s pretty discreet, and that’s by design. We’re not allowed to have branding.”
Emerald Secure Transportation is only one of 24 companies to have received—and maintained—a “secure transporter” license from the state of Michigan since voters legalized recreational weed in 2018. They don’t grow or process marijuana. They don’t sell it either.
Under state law, these companies are the only entities that are legally allowed to shuttle marijuana products (and all cash from the sales of those products) between Michigan’s thousands of cultivation and processing facilities, testing labs, and retail storefronts.
While you’ve probably never heard of Feehan or her family-run company, there’s a good chance that they’ve had their hands on your weed long before it ever ended up packed inside your pipe.
For the last three years, this Lansing-based company (and others like it) has played a critical role in keeping the shelves filled with safe and tested products at every dispensary in Michigan.
And as the state’s cannabis market has blossomed, so has the demand for transportation.
“Things have been kind of crazy for the first two years that we’ve been in business,” Feehan told the MichiGanja Report. “The winter has been a little slower, but there are still a lot of new businesses coming into the market—and that’s always good for the transportation business.”
In February alone, more than 600 licensed retailers sold more $216 million worth of cannabis in Michigan—representing a total of more than 165 metric metric tons of products, or enough to fill a fleet of about 165 Ford F-150 Lightning pickup trucks to their maximum possible payload.
Nearly two dozen new cultivation facilities and eight new retailers were also licensed in the last month, and more than 40 more applications were filed with the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Agency. The latest state reports show the industry now employs nearly 30,000 Michiganders statewide.
Feehan and her husband left Florida for Michigan’s greener pastures in 2019—and they haven’t looked back. In less than three years, Emerald Secure Transportation has hired nearly 20 new employees and expanded their fleet to include seven large cargo vans. Its drivers now take daily trips across nearly every corner of the state, to hundreds of different cannabis businesses.
“It was definitely difficult to get our foot in the door with some businesses. Loyalty is a big deal in this industry, and some of these folks had worked with other companies since the beginning. We weren’t from Michigan, so we were kind of the new kid, and that came with some resistance.”
She added: “For us, it’s really about reliability and providing top-notch customer service. We try to get to know our customers’ products, and find different ways we might be able to help them.”
Of course, Feehan said it also took some time for her family to fully understand her new business plan—and the idea that she would soon be shuttling weed across the state for a living. For a time, her family joked that she moved to Michigan to become a “drug mule.”
“There was definitely more of a stigma when the industry was first taking off. It took some time to show people that we were picking up our lives in Florida and moving to Michigan for a legitimate business—that this wasn’t just some stoner party, or whatever,” Feehan said.
The plan for the future?
“A bigger building with more drivers and more vehicles,” Feehan said. “It was sort of nice to start out as the little guy. We’ve always supported small businesses. But I anticipate us being a company that sticks around for a long time. It’ll be interesting to see how the market shakes out over the next year or so, but we definitely see it as an opportunity for continued growth.”