Pot uncovered: 4/20 holiday comes into the light after legalization

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News
Matthew Carter of Madison Heights gets a nose full of Sour Diesel marijuana as the smells come from tiny molecules called terpenes during a 420 block party at Utopia Gardens in Detroit on April 20, 2019.

Detroit — Nicole Heath woke up Saturday and thought the best way to revel in 4/20 would be to introduce her mother to marijuana. 

Heath and her mother drove from their home in Birmingham to Detroit, where they celebrated the unofficial national marijuana holiday at Utopia Gardens, a dispensary on East Lafayette.

"Now that it's legal, it's more mainstream and still awesome, but has lost what makes it special," said Heath, 34. "I used to feel like I was in this little club of people who were getting help from it, but now there's a lot more people smoking and much more to come."

Alicia Consolo of Auburn Hills is all smiles as a budtender fills her order during a 420 block party at Utopia Gardens in Detroit on April 20, 2019
Max Ortiz, The Detroit News

They were just some of the people that gathered for a marijuana-themed block party in Detroit’s east side. Medical marijuana cardholders were invited to enjoy what used to be a renegade holiday with specials on flowers, oils and pre-rolls, arcade games, food trucks and music. 

"I bought an eighth of Biker OG flower, 4 grams of sugars and a tarantula joint for the holiday. It's a rolled joint that is dipped in wax and sprinkled with kief (concentrates)," Heath said. "There are no dispensaries in Birmingham because they segregated them all to Detroit so we had to come all the way here, but that's gonna change."

Budtender Rashon Massey wishes a customer a happy 420 Day.

Stewart Carter, owner of Utopia Gardens, said the holiday calls for celebration although many might not agree. 

"It used to be a renegade holiday but now we are celebrating it with a double meaning: first the celebration of marijuana and also Michigan putting quality laws together to accept it and stop arresting young people with marijuana," he said. 

Budtender Rashon Massey shows off the Biker OG strain of cannabis.

Utopia Gardens, located at 6541 E. Lafayette St., is a former elevator factory from the 1900s that was modernized by Carter who wanted to keep the industrial look. 

The space includes woodwork Carter created himself, replicas of Diego Rivera's Detroit Industrial mural, a collection of motorcycles, apparel and special "budtenders" to help with medical needs. 

"People think we are upscale, but we're really not. We're simply a neighborhood dispensary, although we get many customers from the suburbs," Carter said. 

Carter, a former caregiver, said they will have a recreational license in the next year, but said their medical patients are the priority.

Jessica Byers, of Detroit Hustles Harder, Eastern Market, shows off the cannabis shirt during a 420 block party at Utopia Gardens.

"I've lost many patients to cancer, terminal illnesses and we find that a lot of people who are sick don't want opioids and want to be alert. Marijuana gives them that opportunity," he said.

The dispensary said the City of Detroit was willing to give them the permits for the outdoor block party, and it is the first to be granted a delivery license in Michigan by the state.

The dispensary has its own strain of marijuana with the most popular flavors being Blue Dream and Sour Diesel, said purchasing manager Matt Ruhle. 

"This is a big fuss for people who want to just get high, but that's only about 15% of our young connoisseurs," he said. "If you spend some time here, you'll notice majority of the patients come to us on crutches, with anxiety issues and are truly benefiting from relief."

Twitter: @SarahRahal_