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How One Entrepreneur Went From Credit Repair to Becoming Michigan’s First POC Dispensary Owner

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When Earl Carruthers was captain of the Wayne State University football team, he cracked his pelvis, leading to chronic pain. After graduation, he worked as a resource supervisor for UPS and then a financial adviser for JP Morgan before starting a credit repair business. Next, he wanted to start another business that was more product-focused and kept customers coming back rather than serving them just once. 

Since he’d been looking up natural remedies for the pain associated with his cracked pelvis, he thought about creating an anti-inflammatory supplement for athletes. In his research, he learned about cannabis. He hadn’t actually heard of it before and didn’t even know it was marijuana. But it sounded like it could be a fit both for his business and for his own personal use, so he signed up for an eight-week course at a local cannabis college.

That was where he learned what cannabis was, as well as some basic facts like the difference between indica and sativa strains. He also learned how to start growing it legally in his home state of Michigan

Carruthers had avoided smoking because he’d been taught negative things about cannabis, such as that it was addictive. But his girlfriend at the time, who is now his wife, smoked cannabis daily. She rolled his first blunt, and he smoked for the first time with her. 

Once he’d learned about the technicalities of growing cannabis and realized it wasn’t the life-ruining drug he’d been taught it was, Carruthers became a caregiver — someone who provides medical cannabis for up to five patients and oneself. 

His patients included himself, his girlfriend, his mother (who had been diagnosed with bipolar schizophrenia), and his father (who was recovering from quadruple heart bypass surgery). Once he started growing more than he could use, he considered starting a delivery service. 

“I took what I’d learned as an entrepreneur and ran a delivery service that way,” he explained. Once it got busy, he realized he needed an office, so he repurposed the office he was using for his credit repair business to take appointments. “It kind of got weird, because the smell doesn’t go away,” he said with a laugh.

To avoid suspicious questions from credit repair customers, he got a separate suite for each business. Other caregivers also began using his medical cannabis office to meet with patients, so it turned into a collective of sorts. He called this collective the Green Greener Grow, and it later grew into the G3 Cannabis Therapy Network. This was technically a dispensary (legally called “provisioning centers” in Michigan), making him the first person of color to own a cannabis dispensary in Michigan. 

Trouble with the Law

That was not an easy position to attain. While he was selling cannabis brownies to patients, Carruthers was arrested and sent to jail on the premise that the edibles were illegal narcotics. Rather than count how much cannabis they contained — which was within the limits of the law — the prosecution counted the total weight of the brownies. 

“I was confused as to why they were trying to create a criminal,” he recalled. “I thought there were enough black people in jail.” The labels on his products that designated them as medical marijuana were blacked out with marker, and the trial was treated as if he had been selling drugs for recreational purposes. 

On top of that, an undercover cop with a fake medical marijuana card, cashier’s check, and ID pretended to be a medical cannabis patient and signed his membership agreement, leading him to get raided. “The jury perceived me as another black guy with marijuana, and I was found guilty and had to go to jail,” he remembered. He was there for 33 days, then was sentenced to five years probation. 

Even after the conviction, he continued to fight the brownie case all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court. While there wasn’t a change to his charges, the case inspired new legislation in Michigan that included a mathematical equation to calculate the amount of “usable material” in cannabis products such as edibles and oil extractions. He also continued to fight the dispensary case involving the undercover cop for almost four years until all charges were dismissed.

Not Easy Being Green

Needless to say, Carruthers, who now runs the Cannabis Therapy Potcast, has learned that “the grass is not always greener on the other side” (no pun intended) — working in cannabis isn’t easier than working in another area.

“You have to have a nice risk tolerance because it’s a very volatile and risky and changing environment, and you will have to step in and be in it for the long haul,” he said. “I think the only way to be really strapped in is to really have a purpose other than to make money.” 

For him, that purpose was combatting the war on drugs and the racism implicit in it, plus advocating for personal autonomy. “It was more about furthering the movement of normalizing cannabis,” he said. “And when you have that purpose, you can handle a lot of the bumps and bruises that you’re going to get.”

However, he wishes he’d been more prepared for how fast-paced the industry was so that he could gather the resources, education, and network to weather the storm. “One year in the cannabis industry is like seven years,” he said. One thing in particular he didn’t realize he’d need to learn was how the government and the law work, both on the federal and local level, since the cannabis industry is so heavily regulated. 

Tiffany Hoven, director of operations at The Grove, a vertical cannabis operation that includes cultivation, production, distribution, and retail stores, agrees that education is key for entering the cannabis industry.

“The more you know about this plant, the better you can understand each and every position within this booming industry. Understanding cannabinoids and terpenes is vital to understanding the products,” she said. “The stronger your base when it comes to education in this field, the easier it is to transition into a solid employee in the cannabis arena.” 

There are lots of opportunities relevant to many different skill sets, though, so you don’t be intimidated if you don’t have previous experience in cannabis.

“The cannabis industry is huge and growing and includes all parts, including but not limited to cultivation, production, retail, sales, and distribution,” Hoven said. “All of these positions are trainable, so when a candidate is able to adapt easily, learn, and grow quickly, even better. Computer knowledge is a plus when it comes to managerial or admin positions, and of course, experience in your field and management when it comes to department lead positions.”

If you can handle the challenges that come with transitioning into the cannabis industry, Carruthers believes they will ultimately benefit you.

“I’m thankful for the obstacles and for the setbacks and the hurdles you have to overcome because you build character,” he said. “You build perseverance, and no one can take that away from you. They can take your money, take your bank account, they can change legislation, but they can’t take away your perseverance. They cannot take away your will.” 

After running up against many obstacles of his own, Carruthers has only become more determined to stay in and change the industry.

“You will not hear the last of me,” he vowed. “I am in this industry to stay. I will adapt, and I will adjust, and I will go from there.”

Feature image: Earl Carruthers, second from right, stands with Democratic Michigan state Rep. Jewell Jones, third from right, and Michigan Medical Marijuana Association Director Jesse Riggs, right. Carruthers, a former college football player turned financial adviser and entrepreneur, is the first African American cannabis dispensary owner in Michigan. He is also joined by Margeaux Bruner, Political Director of the Michigan Cannabis Industries Association, second from left, and two Students for Sensible Drug Policy members wearing National Expungement Week T-shirts. Taken at Oakland Community College in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan during National Expungement Week 2019. (Photo courtesy of Komorn Law) 



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Are Sallie Mae Student Loans Federal or Private?

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When you hear the name Sallie Mae, you probably think of student loans. There’s a good reason for that; Sallie Mae has a long history, during which time it has provided both federal and private student loans.

However, as of 2014, all of Sallie Mae’s student loans are private, and its federal loans have been sold to another servicer. Here’s what to know if you have a Sallie Mae loan or are considering taking one out.

What is Sallie Mae?

Sallie Mae is a company that currently offers private student loans. But it has taken a few forms over the years.

In 1972, Congress first created the Student Loan Marketing Association (SLMA) as a private, for-profit corporation. Congress gave SLMA, commonly called “Sallie Mae,” the status of a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) to support the company in its mission to provide stability and liquidity to the student loan market as a warehouse for student loans.

However, in 2004, the structure and purpose of the company began to change. SLMA dissolved in late December of that year, and the SLM Corporation, or “Sallie Mae,” was formed in its place as a fully private-sector company without GSE status.

In 2014, the company underwent another big adjustment when Sallie Mae split to form Navient and Sallie Mae. Navient is a federal student loan servicer that manages existing student loan accounts. Meanwhile, Sallie Mae continues to offer private student loans and other financial products to consumers. If you took out a student loan with Sallie Mae prior to 2014, there’s a chance that it was a federal student loan under the now-defunct Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP).

At present, Sallie Mae owns 1.4 percent of student loans in the United States. In addition to private student loans, the bank also offers credit cards, personal loans and savings accounts to its customers, many of whom are college students.

What is the difference between private and federal student loans?

When you’re seeking financing to pay for college, you’ll have a big choice to make: federal versus private student loans. Both types of loans offer some benefits and drawbacks.

Federal student loans are educational loans that come from the U.S. government. Under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, there are four types of federal student loans available to qualified borrowers.

With federal student loans, you typically do not need a co-signer or even a credit check. The loans also come with numerous benefits, such as the ability to adjust your repayment plan based on your income. You may also be able to pause payments with a forbearance or deferment and perhaps even qualify for some level of student loan forgiveness.

On the negative side, most federal student loans feature borrowing limits, so you might need to find supplemental funding or scholarships if your educational costs exceed federal loan maximums.

Private student loans are educational loans you can access from private lenders, such as banks, credit unions and online lenders. On the plus side, private student loans often feature higher loan amounts than you can access through federal funding. And if you or your co-signer has excellent credit, you may be able to secure a competitive interest rate as well.

As for drawbacks, private student loans don’t offer the valuable benefits that federal student borrowers can enjoy. You may also face higher interest rates or have a harder time qualifying for financing if you have bad credit.

Are Sallie Mae loans better than federal student loans?

In general, federal loans are the best first choice for student borrowers. Federal student loans offer numerous benefits that private loans do not. You’ll generally want to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and review federal funding options before applying for any type of private student loan — Sallie Mae loans included.

However, private student loans, like those offered by Sallie Mae, do have their place. In some cases, federal student aid, grants, scholarships, work-study programs and savings might not be enough to cover educational expenses. In these situations, private student loans may provide you with another way to pay for college.

If you do need to take out private student loans, Sallie Mae is a lender worth considering. It offers loans for a variety of needs, including undergrad, MBA school, medical school, dental school and law school. Its loans also feature 100 percent coverage, so you can find funding for all of your certified school expenses.

With that said, it’s always best to compare a few lenders before committing. All lenders evaluate income and credit score differently, so it’s possible that another lender could give you lower interest rates or more favorable terms.

The bottom line

Sallie Mae may be a good choice if you’re in the market for private student loans and other financial products. Just be sure to do your research upfront, as you should before you take out any form of financing. Comparing multiple offers always gives you the best chance of saving money.

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Tips to do some fall cleaning on your finances

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Wealth manager, Harry Abrahamsen, has five simple ways to stay on top of the big financial picture.

PORTLAND, Maine — Keeping track of our financial stability is something we can all do, whether we have IRAs or 401ks or just a checking account. Harry J. Abrahamsen is the Founder of Abrahamsen Financial Group. He works with clients to create and grow their own wealth. Abrahamsen shares five financial tips, starting with knowing what you have. 

1. Analyze Your Finances Quarterly or Biannually

You want to make sure that your long-term strategy is congruent with your short-term strategy. If the short-term is not working out, you may need to adjust what you are doing to make sure your outcome produces the desired results you are looking to accomplish. It is just like setting sail on a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. You know where you want to go and plot your course, but there are many factors that need to be considered to actually get you across and across safely. Your finances behave the exact same way. Check your current situation and make sure you are taking into consideration all of the various wealth-eroding factors that can take you completely off course.

With interest rates very low, now might be a good time to consider refinancing student loans or mortgages, or consolidating credit card debt. However, do so only if you need to or if you can create a positive cash flow. To ensure that you are saving the most by doing so, you must look at current payments, excluding taxes and insurance costs. This way you can do an apples-to-apples comparison.

The most important things to look for when reviewing your credit report is accuracy. Make sure the reporting agencies are reporting things actuary. If it doesn’t appear to be reporting correct and accurate information, you should consult with a reputable credit repair company to help you fix the incorrect information.

4. Savings and Retirement Accounts

The most important thing to consider when reviewing your savings and retirement accounts is to make sure the strategies match your short-term and long-term investment objectives. All too often people end up making decisions one at a time, at different times in their lives, with different people, under different circumstances. Having a sound strategy in place will allow you to view your finances with a macro-economic lens vs a micro-economic view. Stay the course and adjust accordingly from a risk and tax standpoint.

RELATED: Financial lessons learned through the pandemic

A great tip for lowering utility bills or car insurance premiums: Simply ask! There may be things you are not aware of that could save you hundreds of dollars every month. You just need to call all of the companies that you do business with to find out about cost-cutting strategies. 

RELATED: Overcome your fear of finances

To learn more about Abrahamsen Financial, click here

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How to Get a Loan Even with Bad Credit

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Sana pwedeng mabura ang bad credit history as quickly and easily as paying off your utility bills, ‘no? Unfortunately, it takes time. And bago mo pa maayos ang bad credit mo, more often than not, kailangan mo na namang mag-avail ng panibagong loan. 

Good thing you can still get a loan even with bad credit, kahit na medyo limited ang options. How do you get a loan if you have bad credit? Alamin sa short guide na ito. 

For more finance tips, visit Moneymax.

 

 

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