Going from DJ to MJ

Former radio host Drew McCarthy joins the cannabis movement.
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From music to sports, Drew McCarthy was a big name in Grand Rapids media. Now he's made a career switch. Photo by Ashley Wierenga

For years, Drew McCarthy was “Big Droo,” a big-time radio personality in West Michigan. As McCarthy continued to establish himself as one of the premier sports radio hosts in Michigan, he also took on a very public bariatric surgery process.

Then, during the pandemic, the charismatic host changed careers and jumped in as general manager of Gage Cannabis, 3075 Peregrine Drive NE.

McCarthy talked about the career switch and using marijuana in his healthier lifestyle.

Grand Rapids Magazine: You were a radio personality many in Grand Rapids knew, but now you manage a marijuana store. How did that change happen and how has it gone?

Drew McCarthy: It has been more jarring than I expected. I thought I’d be able to make this seamless switch going to work every day. That was in my head, not realizing the difference between managing 30 people and managing three major sports franchises or different story angles.

I will say it is a lot more detail oriented and less big-idea oriented. And that was a challenge for me. I had gotten through life using my words and my ability to talk to other people and now it’s a combination of that but acting and leading a team of people. Now it’s great make that sale, help that customer, but also, “Wipe down that case if you have some time.”

It really came about organically. It was mid-pandemic and there were no sports, no appearances, no endorsements, and I looked at my wife, what would you think of me picking up a part-time job in the weed industry? She said dip your toe in. I took a part-time job as a budtender, and I really enjoyed it and the people I was working with; just being part of an industry that was finding ways to grow while everything else was stalled.

(I’m) watching this industry continue to evolve to provide people with an alternative. And I say that as an alternative to medicine, to how you relax. It’s an alternative. And the amount of effort the industry took is a place I wanted to be.

GRM: How do you handle people who aren’t pro-cannabis?

DM: I like to be up front about it. I have a 13-year-old son, who I talk to about cannabis, about what Dad does for a living. There is no reason to lie to everybody. Lying wastes time. The biggest thing: marijuana is legal. Some of my friends and family, you light a joint and they worry if someone will smell this? I hope so, I spent money on it. First time I lit one of our Cookies Georgia Pie, my wife, she went, “Oh, my God, that smells like a cigar.” That’s where this industry is going. Talk about it like it’s a normal thing, just like it’s beer.

GRM: How have you made it part of your healthy lifestyle?

DM: It was one of those things, do everything the doctor tells you if you’re going to do bariatric surgery. I did, other than not smoking marijuana. I admitted it to my doctors, that’s how you get hurt medically. For me, I like to use it as a reward. When I was in the process of losing weight, I lost 100 pounds before the surgery and 100 pounds after. When I was starting at 420 pounds, it felt like this Herculean thing. The first thing was my doctor saying it’s not a big deal, make a small change. I thought he meant like walk a mile. He said, ‘That’s excessive. Stand up while you watch TV. Park further from the grocery store. You admitted you smoke weed, stand up and go for a walk when you smoke.’ That’s now one of my favorite things in the world is lighting a joint and going for a walk. Munchies are a real thing, but a big thing is what you’re munching on. It’s about what you choose to do. It helped me be OK that I could keep this thing from my fat life. I got rid of a lot of things.

GRM: What sets Gage apart from other dispensaries? 

DM: The thing that sets us apart, some places you don’t know what you’re getting. It’s that (marijuana brand) Cookies relationship. When your store can carry the Nike in your industry, that’s a win. And when you’re one of the only stores in the city carrying Nike, that’s an even bigger win. We also want to sell weed with kindness and empathy. Going into a store for the first time can be scary. We want to make sure people feel welcome and you’re being taken care of.

This story can be found in the November/December 2021 issue of Grand Rapids Magazine. To get more stories like this delivered to your mailbox, subscribe here.

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