It seemed like a great idea a few months ago—adding “marijuana events organizer” to my business portfolio. It was meant to be something that I could offer clients and was to be a magnet for potential clients.
In Michigan, if you want to host a marijuana consumption event, one where you can buy and consume, you’ll need to work with a licensed marijuana event organizer (MEO) or pay a fee of $6000 to the state if you want to DIY.
MEOs are the paperwork and compliance detail professionals for Michigan’s marijuana consumption events. Working at more than 90 days before the event, the MEO looks after a few dozen essential details like on-site cannabis vendors, crowd size, admission and tickets, security, insurance, public relations, marketing, signage, parking, waste disposal and more. Above all, a marijuana event organizer ensures that an event is safe, successful and fun.
Except there are no events, marijuana or otherwise. Not right now, anyway.
This ahead of the curve, “skate where the puck is going, not where it’s been” thinking has haunted me throughout my cannabis career. I launched Canna Communication in 2017. It was many months before I had any clients as Michigan was working its way through its first effort at licensing medical marijuana businesses and even early applicants for provisioning centers would be more than a year away from opening.
For my MEO I was able to take advantage of Michigan’s social equity program. Being a lifelong resident of Muskegon allowed me to apply for a slightly discounted application and license fee because of Muskegon’s higher than average record of marijuana arrests. They knocked a sweet 25 percent off of the fees. It was the discount AND living/working in a community that opted in for marijuana special events that gave me the incentive to begin the application process. Not every community allows these types of events, but the City of Muskegon is one of them.
When I applied for my marijuana event license I was quite sure I was in the right place at the perfect time.
As my marijuana event license was working its way through the Marijuana Regulatory Agency, COVID-19 was working its way into the population.
Michigan’s governor declared a state of emergency, and people were asked to self-quarantine. Gatherings of more than ten people are not allowed. Uh oh. I was already working with a Muskegon client on an event for the first anniversary of their provisioning center. Those plans are still on hold.
Like everything else in Michigan, from the Cherry Festival to Electric Forest to Hash Bash, cancellations are taking their toll, and longstanding events won’t be held. It’s doubtful that any significant group events will happen this summer.
It won’t last forever. We’ll power through this pandemic and figure out how to gather safely. Events and festivals are important to people and communities. For some places, they’re part of a community’s history and have been held for decades without stopping— events and festivals are economic drivers, and they bring people to a place and keep them coming back year after year.
As marijuana becomes more mainstream in Michigan and our culture, you’re likely to see a new full-blown music festival with a cannabis focus or to have a cannabis sales and consumption area as part of an existing event. It wasn’t that long ago that beer tents became part of many community festivals that were previously dry. As with anything new, changing people’s perceptions and showing success will lead to adoption and embracing an idea. When we come out of COVID-19 hibernation, there will be marijuana events and that’s something we can look forward to celebrating together.
If you are interested in learning more about marijuana events just give us a shout.