Jul 15, 2022 - Business

Detroit could be getting cannabis consumption events soon

Illustration of a ticket with a marijuana leaf printed on it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Cannabis consumption events are on the horizon in Detroit, including a 500-attendee bash hosted by NBA veteran Al Harrington's brand, Viola.

Driving the news: The company is among the city's first licensed cannabis event organizers after recreational cannabis sales were finally approved in April.

  • Viola sells pot in five states — including a medical shop in southwest Detroit — and has thrown events elsewhere with celebrities, athletes and influencers.

The latest: The company is applying for an event in late September or early October at a yet-to-be-disclosed location.

What they're saying: If accepted by the city, the event would offer pot to consume on site — plus promote the brand and educate attendees about marijuana laws, Najee Tyler, Viola's director of brand marketing, tells Axios.

  • "The biggest thing is, of course, we're a Black-owned brand, and there's a really huge gap of education for cannabis, still, in Detroit," he says.

The intrigue: Beyond the potential September gathering, Viola wants to host a regular series of events on its own property, which has a big parking lot and waterfront view.

  • "We have some really cool ideas that we never honestly thought would be able to come to life in Detroit," Tyler says. One of those is a consumption music festival.

State of play: Applications are open for those wanting to host an event where weed can be legally ingested. They need two licenses: an organizer license, then one for the specific event. City Council also needs to approve the event.

  • Six cannabis event organizers are licensed in Detroit, but no individual events have been approved yet.

The big picture: Recreational grow licenses are available now, too. Three companies are licensed so far, per state records.

  • The city won't start taking applications for retail shops and consumption lounges until Aug. 1 — a cause of controversy because Detroit is way behind other Michigan cities in getting the lucrative recreational industry up and running.
  • Medical sales are no longer fruitful, leaving retailers in the city with little revenue to support themselves while they wait for a shot at a rec license.

Zoom out: Eleven consumption events have been held in other cities — fewer than expected after recreational was passed in 2018. The pandemic is to blame, as well as many cities deciding to prohibit them.


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