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Michigan’s Marijuana Tourism Industry

A Wide Open Field

As the new cannabis laws and regulations are being hashed out in our government I can’t help but wonder how Michigan’s tourism industry will be impacted.  We are the first mid-western state to legalize recreational marijuana. That coupled with our already pretty impressive tourism industry could bring a lot of additional revenue to our state.

The few states that have already legalized recreational marijuana have welcomed cannabis into their tourism industry.  Maybe more exciting than the actual marijuana aspect of this is all of the ancillary products and services that compliment the marijuana industry.  Many industries can be a part of this wild new frontier of Michigan recreational marijuana, and offer packages that will suit anyone’s needs.

Denver Colorado, for example, is home to My 420 Tours who in a single day will take tour members to visit a clone bar and dispensary, a grow facility and a glass gallery.  

If a day of pampering is more your style, or perhaps for your bachelorette party,  a more suitable adventure may include a retreat which includes yoga classes, spa treatments, and cannabis-infused cocktails or smoothies, body creams, and cosmetics.

Couples looking for a relaxing weekend may want to consider a wine and weed tour in California where you can tour both wineries and dispensaries during the same vacation.

The most recent numbers available for Colorado’s tourism industry show that there were 6.5 million cannabis visitors to the state in 2016, and the numbers are expected to increase each year.  Michigan’s Pure Michigan campaign is credited with increasing tourism and the campaign has an estimated ROI of $8.33 for every dollar spent. If the cannabis industry can capitalize upon our already stout tourism industry Michigan may become the next marijuana destination hotspot.

Before Michigan can become a marijuana mecca, there are a few administrative hurdles to overcome.  First, while it is legal to possess and grow marijuana there is nowhere to legally purchase recreational marijuana.  The second hurdle is going to be coming up with more refined laws that spell out what is considered consuming on private property and consuming without being a nuisance to your neighbor by allowing the smoke and scent of the marijuana cross over property lines and be noticeable to the public.

I have contacted both the city of Grand Rapids and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to see if they have heard of businesses that have shown interest in the cannabis industry from a tourism standpoint.  Grand Rapids did not have information that would indicate that there is interest yet, and MEDC does not yet have data. I can only guess that people and companies are waiting for the regulatory framework to be put into place so that they may be compliant before spending time and money on a business concept that is not sustainable with the laws.

I have, however, found a couple of places that are willing to be the first business to get their feet wet and become pioneers in Michigan’s recreational marijuana industry.  Rupert’s Brew House in Kalamazoo is planning to close the pub down on Saturday evenings and turn into a private club called The Cooperative. Members would be charged a membership fee to be able to participate in events.  During these private events, the general public would not be able to be in the club. The owner plans to install a lock system to only allow access to the club to its members. Cannabis will not be sold on premises, instead, it would be a place where like-minded people can gather and feel comfortable talking about subjects such as cultivation or cannabis culture.

Both the Michigan Liquor Control Commission and the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs say that someone with a brewer’s license cannot close its doors to the public for private parties.  The establishment must remain open to the public or may have to appear in front of the Liquor Control Commission and may face punishment including fines or losing their license. Mark Rupert, the owner of Rupert’s,  believes that as long as public hours are maintained he will be able to keep his brewer's license.

A second business, this one in Detroit, has been created by one cannabis’  biggest advocates. John Sinclaire was one of the first to say that marijuana should be legal, and he has fought for legalization for about 50 years, even spending some time in prison for the cause. Sinclaire has created Dr. Bob’s Psychedelic Healing Shack, a place which celebrates the art music and poetry he enjoys.  The coffee shop is expected to be a gathering spot for hippies, hipsters, and anyone looking for a place to relax, however, no marijuana will be sold on premises.

We voted for legalized marijuana, and now it is up to the regulatory bodies to determine where marijuana may be consumed.  The more businesses that express an interest in allowing for consumption or allows for ways to consume as a community, I believe the quicker the regulatory wheels will have to turn.  Anyone that has an idea for a cannabis-related business should get ahead of the game and start inquiring and planning.

Connie Maxim-Sparrow