Detroit Pot Farmers Bring Old School West Coast Weed to Michigan

Doghouse Farms Operations Manager Ghassan Saab shows off a crop of marijuana plants in Detroit.

By Kyle Kaminski

May 2, 2023

DETROIT—Doghouse Farms isn’t trying to be flashy. 

Tucked between several old automotive manufacturing buildings near an airport in Detroit, the Michigan headquarters of “one of the most sought-after” cannabis brands in the country isn’t much to behold. There’s no signage, and no gaudy weed murals on its plain gray brick walls. 

Employees there squeeze their cars into a tiny, gravel parking lot—and they get to work.  

Passersby could easily be forgiven for not knowing that thousands of some of the industry’s most award-winning marijuana plants are constantly blooming their way to harvest inside. After all, there’s only so much room for showmanship in the cannabis business, and the top dogs at Doghouse Farms would rather focus their energy where it matters most: growing good weed.

“That’s definitely the biggest linchpin to who we are, and how we define ourselves as a brand—it’s these really incredible, proprietary genetics,” said Operations Manager Ghassan Saab. “We only grow strains we know are first class, and that takes a lot of time and effort.”

Rows of marijuana plants inch closer to a bountiful harvest at Doghouse Farms in Detroit.

Doghouse launched in Washington State in 2015, and has since gained a reputation (especially on the West Coast) for growing some of the most potent and flavorful weed on the market today. 

Founder Jon Hudnall—who gained the eponymous nickname “Hound Dog” during his time in the military—reportedly learned how to grow with some of the earliest pioneers of the cannabis industry from the 70s and 80s, and has been passing down his genetics lessons ever since. 

Recently harvested marijuana plants hang to dry at Doghouse Farms in Detroit.

In 2020, a “friends and family” co-ownership deal led Hudnall to expand operations into Michigan, and those same legendary West Coast strains were planted in the Motor City.

Three years later, the result is a carefully curated collection of marijuana that isn’t often found in the Midwest—and an “obsession” with flavor that has propelled Doghouse Farms to success statewide, with its products now being carried in about 200 retailers across both peninsulas. 

“This has given us an opportunity to get our hands on genetics that nobody else can get—because they know that we’re going to be able to grow the best version of it,” Saab said.

On any given day, up to 40 Michiganders are tending more than 5,000 pot plants inside the Detroit facility. The plants spend different cycles of their lives in nine different rooms, before being hung to dry, hand-trimmed, and packaged into products for the recreational market.

All told, at least 18 different genetic variations are set to be harvested this year—with each strain designed to produce its own unique flavors and smells, and have its own unique effect. 

Employees trim harvested marijuana plants by hand at Doghouse Farms in Detroit.

Some genetic varieties, like Durban Grapefruit, are supposed to make consumers feel energized and uplifted. Others, like Sherb Cake, are bred to produce more relaxing sensations.

“We’re definitely flavor obsessed. With these genetics, we have strains that nobody else has. The flavors are different. The high is different. Some of them might be familiar flavor profiles that people might be used to smoking, but the high is going to be totally unique.”

Doghouse farms operations manager Ghassan Saab

Pre-rolled joints and raw flower are company specialties, though Doghouse has plans to release a line of concentrates to a variety of retailers statewide before the end of May. Doghouse has also combined the concepts with a new premium lineup of concentrate-infused joints.

“The strains are one thing, but we also put more time and attention into our plants,” said CEO Eric Slutzky. “We do things much more organically—in that there’s no pesticides in the building. It’s a little more labor intensive, especially with the hand-trimming. But it’s these little nuances that can make a big difference in a crowded market. You want to put that time into your product.”

The overall company mission revolves around two goals: 1) Foster a roster of products that can appeal to every Michigan smoker, from the newbie who wants something sugary, to the OG stoners who want those gassier, skunkier flavors. 2) Ensure Michiganders can always get their hands on the nation’s best bud—even if the strain had to travel 2,000-plus miles to get here.

“We’re always watching trends in the marketplace. Michigan, it seems, tends to glom onto whatever is popular on the West Coast one or two years ago,” Slutzky said. “We like to dip our toes in a little earlier on some of those things and bring them to Michigan a little sooner.”

Operations Manager Ghassan Saab counts 1-pound bags of cannabis at Doghouse Farms in Detroit.

And while Hudnall may have started Doghouse in Washington, the company—and the team in Michigan—has dutifully adopted all the hustle and grit that a Detroit-based company requires.

Before launching Doghouse in the Mitten, Saab worked in the local restaurant scene. Slutzky was an attorney who specialized in commercial real estate. And company president Nir Saar was a former principal at high schools in Southfield, Novi and Detroit.

“It’s not like any of us left a job to get paid three times more to get into cannabis,” Saab said. “We all sacrificed quite a bit to build this thing from the ground up, and we’re all pretty proud of it. We’ve all put our blood, sweat and tears into this company. It’s really a labor of love for us.”

Click here for more information about Doghouse Farms, including a list of Michigan retailers.

READ MORE: 8 Quick Hits of Cannabis News from Across Michigan

This article originally appeared in The MichiGanja Report, a free monthly newsletter from The ‘Gander about all things cannabis, written by political correspondent Kyle Kaminski. Click here to subscribe, and we’ll send the next edition straight to your inbox.

Author

  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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