Cannabis tourism in Michigan is a real thing. Here’s what to know, where to stay

May 2, 2023 · Detroit Free Press

As people start to make their summer travel plans, there are a growing number of options for travelers to Michigan to consume marijuana on vacation, from cannabis music festivals to consumption lounges and cannabis-friendly lodging.

While the number and variety of options available to travelers since marijuana became legal in 2018 are increasing, the cannabis travel industry is still in its early days.

There are no Pure Michigan (the state of Michigan’s tourism campaign) commercials advertising cannabis tourism in the state. Recreational cannabis sales began in Detroit at the start of this year but Visit Detroit is just starting to explore its strategy around cannabis and tourism, a spokesperson said.

One popular town in northern Michigan for tourists, Traverse City, recently issued 16 licenses for recreational marijuana. While recreational marijuana will be available for purchase in Traverse City this summer travel season, that doesn’t mean the city’s visitors bureau is rushing to promote it, mainly due to the restrictions on where it can be consumed, Whitney Waara, chief operating officer of Traverse City Tourism, said.

“It’s a great place to come for anybody and I can see it being aligned with what (cannabis consumers) might be looking for,” Waara said. “That said, we’re just not at that point yet where we’re ready to promote that type of a trip.”

However, there are a few cannabis companies and entrepreneurs that have filled in this gap, offering guides for travelers and aggregating cannabis-friendly activities and lodging options. This year, they say, there are more options for cannabis travelers than ever before.

Andrew McFarlane, founder of Michigan Cannabis Trail, a website that offers information about cannabis experiences in Michigan, said it’s been a slow rollout. He started the website with the hopes of making cannabis more mainstream. Now, he said he wants to show consumers that cannabis can be safe and enjoyable.

McFarlane, who was one of the people behind the Leelanau Wine Trail, sees parallels with cannabis. Wine was seen as snobby and inaccessible and the industry had to find ways to make it more approachable.

“We have to show people that it’s not only safe but it’s enjoyable,” he said. He acknowledged, though, that like alcohol, it can be difficult to serve responsibly. Cannabis can be even more difficult than alcohol because everyone has a different tolerance and it affects people more unpredictably, he said.

He sees budtenders, employees of marijuana dispensaries who help customers select products, as the equivalent of sommeliers in the wine industry.

The need for education in the cannabis industry is something northern Michigan cannabis retailer Dunegrass Co. is betting on.

A year ago, the retailer made the decision to really push the tourism aspect of its business, naming Brian Buchanan the director of tourism strategy for the company and rebranding the company as “Northern Michigan’s cannabis outfitter.”

“You can actually enhance all the experiences that you’re having with the use of cannabis,” Buchanan said, pointing to activities such as kayaking, mountain biking and going to the beach.

Below is more information on the laws surrounding cannabis consumption and cannabis-friendly events and lodging in the state.

More:Celebrating 4/20 in Michigan: 2023 deals and events for weed lovers

More:Annual Hash Bash returns to downtown Ann Arbor

Who can consume cannabis (and how much) in Michigan

Anyone age 21 or older can possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. However, public consumption, driving under the influence of marijuana and crossing state lines with cannabis isn’t allowed. Consumers also can’t fly with marijuana (even though it’s legal in Michigan) because marijuana is still illegal at the federal level and air travel falls under federal law.

Michigan state law specifies that any use of cannabis must take place in private, such as the consumer’s own residence, which doesn’t leave many options for people on vacation.

However, there are more than 30 listings for cannabis-friendly places to stay on the Michigan Cannabis Trail, the highest number of options since the website’s founding. A few examples include Copper House in Detroit and The Nest in Muskegon. There are “elevated experiences,” too, through Dérive Travel, where you will find The Nest accommodations, like “puff & paint” experiences with local artists and “paraphernalia parties.”

Lodging, lounges and events

There are two consumption lounges, where it is legal to consume marijuana, in the state. One is Hot Box Social in Hazel Park, which is open to the public on Mondays and Tuesdays and is otherwise available for private events. No cannabis products are sold on site but free delivery is available from the nearby dispensary Breeze and guests are welcome to bring their own products.

Kalkushka Lounge, in downtown Kalkaska, charges a $5 cover or $420 annually. Open Wednesday through Saturday, customers can bring their own cannabis or purchase it at The Botanical Co. dispensary next to the lounge.

Cannabis consumption also is allowed at licensed events. For example, Cannabash, which will be July 8 in Muskegon, will feature marijuana vendors, food trucks, on-site cannabis consumption and live music. More than 7,000 people attended last year’s Cannabash. This year, Dedaco, a state-licensed temporary marijuana event and production company, is taking over operations and production of the festival. Rappers Ludacris and Sada Baby, among others, are set to perform.

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