by Rick Thompson/December 19, 2020
When looking back at Michigan’s cannabis history, many a friendship and partnership was begun at an old cannabis farmer’s market amid the swirl of smoke, the boasting of vendors and the smell of French fries. The MMFLA led to a shuttering of almost all the markets in Michigan, but the legalization law created several license types which could work together to bring back this treasured feature of the medical cannabis time.
The most important license type created by the MRTMA for a farmer’s market is the designated consumption lounge, where people can gather and smoke together at a place which is not on the road, not in their home and not on the job. But having a place where people bring their own cannabis and sit for a bit doesn’t generate any income. That accounts for the slow rollout of this license type.
“The big feedback we heard on the designated consumption establishment is, how do you make it profitable?” said Marijuana Regulatory Agency Director Andrew Brisbo during an interview on the Four20Post podcast December 9.
One cardinal rule of cannabis events planning is: if you feed them, they will come. The first set of MRA regulations forbade eating at social use lounges, referred to in law as designated consumption establishments. Brisbo said that problem was already fixed. “Our rules now, that were promulgated in June, actually do allow for food service in designated consumption establishments presuming the operation has the appropriate licenses.”
Getting a license? Not an easy task, since the purpose of consumption lounges is… consumption of cannabis, most often through smoking. “That’s really going to be the challenge for those establishments, can they get the local health department to sign off on a food establishment license.”
Beyond food service, it seems the formula for a successful designated consumption establishment includes location and relationship. “I’ve seen some interesting ideas,” Brisbo offered. “Obviously, pairing with retail establishments and putting them in close proximity.”
This is the tasting lounge model, where a designated consumption lounge is next to or close by a retailer, and people leave the retailer and go to the lounge to sample the product- or, product is delivered to the social use lounge from the retailer. Cannabis retailers of both medical and adult-use licenses are allowed to deliver cannabis, a service that has become more popular and essential during the Covid pandemic.
The other license type needed for the farmer’s market to work is the temporary events license holder. They are the party host: they bring the guests, and cannabis retailers pay them for the privilege of selling cannabis at their event. Usually, there are lots of cannabis retailers at the same party. All sales are taxed and reported to the MRA. It’s a Michigan thing. “We’ve been at the forefront of license types,” Brisbo said. “I believe we are the only state with an event license.”
Designated consumption lounge owners can “partner with a temporary events license holder to hold consistent events at that facility, which would allow for sales then by licensed retailers or microbusinesses at that facility.”
Smoking cannabis while shopping for more cannabis while surrounded by multiple cannabis vendors under one roof? Sounds like a good old-fashioned farmer’s market. “I think there are some creative ideas,” Brisbo chuckled. “Folks will figure out how to make it work.”
Watch the video interview of the Four20Post broadcast, which features Mike Brennan, Rick Thompson, Jamie Cooper and Stevan Bratic.