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Consumption lounges are working around regulations to bring cannabis users together...
By Gretchen Van-Monette
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Cannabis consumption lounges are a great concept, in theory. They are places where like-minded cannabis consumers can gather to eat, drink, socialize, and enjoy some Mary Jane. But in Michigan, lounges face regulations that can keep away many patrons.

Currently, cannabis can’t be sold in consumption lounges (except on tribal land), so customers have to bring their own. And local health departments are slow to allow fresh food preparation on-site, and alcohol is prohibited.

“It’s a tough business model for sure,” says Robin Schneider, executive director of the Michigan Cannabis Industry Association. This has forced many lounges to find creative ways to attract customers. Two are doing just that.

Laughs and Painting
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Celebrating more than one year in business, the Kalkushka Lounge, in Kalkaska near Traverse City, and Hot Box Social, in Metro Detroit’s Hazel Park, are both the foundation and weathervane of the consumption-lounge concept.

The cannabis industry has been a boon to Kalkaska. Local recreational cannabis sales are brisk, especially as travelers pick up supplies on their way to summer vacations in Upper Michigan, and the community welcomed Kalkushka Lounge.

“The evolution of a cannabis consumption lounge in town makes sense,” says Chris Atteberry, general manager of Kalkushka Lounge.

But even with community acceptance, running a cannabis business where you can’t purchase on-site is difficult. Atteberry has had to explore out-of-the-box ideas to bring in more people (and their cannabis).

As someone who tries to find humor in most situations, Atteberry discovered comedy has become the niche for the lounge. Branded “Sativa Night Live,” the comedy nights bring together three or four local comics to do their thing to near-sellout crowds of 65 to 70 guests. Atteberry plans to host the event once a month, with tickets ranging from $20 to $30.

“It’s like an HBO comedy special,” says Atteberry. “Right now, it’s spreading by word of mouth, and I’ve had a lot of interest from comedians wanting to come and perform here because of the unique setting and space.”

Another hit is their monthly Paint and Puff events, where artists of all abilities can enjoy cannabis and awaken their inner Monet or Pollack. The instructor-led event includes all painting materials and a pre-roll for inspiration. Paint and Puff costs $40 per person, but book early as the 35 to 40 easel spaces usually sell out early.

While it’s BYOC (Bring Your Own Cannabis) at the Kalkushka Lounge, you don’t have to travel far to buy a stash. Next door is the Botanical Company cannabis store featuring Franklin Fields products, and there are five other dispensaries in town.

The lounge also offers dab ring rentals featuring locally-made coffees, sodas, and sweet treats. Hungry for something more? Food trucks are parked nearby. There is a $5 walk-in fee and $10 on evenings with music. Other events have additional charges. Patrons partial to the place can purchase a $35 monthly membership, or $420 for the year.

Heating up Hazel Park

Hot Box Social, Michigan’s first licensed recreational consumption lounge in Hazel Park, attracts customers by hosting specialized cannabis-themed events.

The business has fundraising events designed around curated experiences like the popular moms-only “Cannamoms” brunch for Mother’s Day. The RuPaul Drag Race season finale viewing party raised nearly $1,000 for the ACLU Drag Defense fund, and the Drag Queen Bingo Pride event benefitted Affirmations, an LGBTQ+ Community Center in Ferndale.

Summer plans include Bocce and Blunt card game tournaments and a “Women in Cannabis” event in August. The back patio has space for outdoor games, including a human-size Jenga and Connect 4. Private events are also welcome.

“Our cannabis-centered events are low key and relaxed,” says general manager Samantha Baker. “The goal is to help engage all your senses and maybe awaken a sixth sense.”

The lounge sometimes limits capacity depending on the event to deepen connections with vendors and guests while ensuring guests are comfortable, says Baker.

“Our cannabiscentered events are low-key and relaxed. The goal is to help engage all your senses and maybe awaken a sixth sense.”

Samantha Baker, GM, Hot Box Social

Hot Box Social recently opened its doors to the public Mondays and Tuesdays from 3 to 10 p.m., where guests are welcome to hangout after work or visit with local brands or vendors. The lounge is drawing anywhere from 25 to 75 guests on public nights. Admission is typically $25 but can change with a promo code or for a special event.

A variety of beverages and tiny munchies are available for purchase. Like Kalkushka Lounge, Hot Box Social is conveniently located near a dispensary, Breeze, the first dispensary in Oakland County.

“We know there’s a lot of interest in what we offer,” says Baker. “It’s obvious that areas to enjoy cannabis away from home are needed and wanted.”

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