Las Vegas Braces for Cannabis Consumption Lounges

Las Vegas Braces for Cannabis Consumption Lounges

Las Vegas cannabis lounges

Cannabis lounges, where patrons can smoke a joint, rip a bong, vaporize a dab or do just about anything else you can think of with the plant, appeared to be a certainty as part of a Las Vegas ordinance back in 2017—and then again in 2019. They’ve been talked about for over four years in the entertainment capital of America.

But this time around, after years of setbacks and political meddling from the rival gaming industry, a bill at the Nevada State Legislature is on track to settle the score once and for all.

Assembly Bill 341 would pave the way for an unlimited number of lounges to open across the state, in counties where local governments allow cannabis businesses to operate. That includes in Sin City, where over 40 million tourists visited each year before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This would really open the floodgates for something marijuana users have wanted for a long time,” said Assemblyman Steve Yeager, a Democrat from Las Vegas who sponsored the bill. “And there’s a social equity part to it where we’re not restricting this just to licensed dispensary owners.”

Yeager, in his third term at the state’s biennial legislature, has felt the frustration himself. Long considered the heir apparent to former State Sen. Tick Segerblom, who was known as Nevada’s “Godfather of Marijuana,” Yeager watched as the fledgling industry offered all of its spoils to a tiny group of anointed business owners, most of whom were lawyers, doctors, casino operators, lobbyists and former public officials.

Less than 100 groups control almost all of the industry, as the state capped dispensary licenses from the adult-use program’s inception in 2017.  Many of the companies are also vertically integrated, meaning dispensary owners also hold the lion’s share of production and cultivation permits. Disproportionately left out have been women and racial minorities, the latter group of which was most harmed by cannabis prohibition.

The new bill runs so contrary to the state’s years of meticulously restricting licenses and hand-picking operators that many dispensary owners are wondering if opening a lounge is even worth the investment.

“You have to figure out if you can make any money with them,” said David Goldwater, owner of Inyo, a dispensary located just over a mile from the Las Vegas Strip. “There’s going to be a ton of new competition.”

Michigan Designated Consumption Establishments Explained

Michigan Designated Consumption Establishments Explained

cannabis cafes coming to Michigan

Michigan legalized cannabis in 2018, and passed emergency rules to get the industry rolling in July 2019.

In addition to creating your run of the mill rules regarding licensing for growers, processors, distributors and retailers, Michigan also created some new license types. These new licenses include a Marijuana Event Organizer license, a Temporary Marijuana Event license and an Excess Marijuana Grower license.

But what has the consumers excited is a different license. A Designated Consumption Establishment license.

Michigan Designated Consumption Establishments

A Designated Consumption Establishment (DCE) license allows the license holder, with local approval, to operate a commercial space that is licensed by the Marijuana Regulatory Agency and authorized to permit adults 21 years of age and older to consume marijuana and marijuana products on premises. A DCE license does not allow for sales or distribution of marijuana or marijuana product, unless the license holder also possesses a Retailer or Microbusiness license.

It is common for public cannabis possession public arrests to rise after a state legalizes cannabis. This happens because most states only allow consumption on private property, and many people who rent may have to go outside to smoke. Michigan saw this problem in other states and is aiming to deal with it before it grows with DCEs, more commonly known as cannabis cafes or lounges.

This license is available to any applicant regardless of if they are currently holding any other licenses. The DCE license is also open to marijuana retailers, microbusinesses or anyone wanting to operate a “bring-your-own-cannabis” model.

DCE Requirements

Applicants for a DCE license must have met a multitude of key criteria. The foremost is a location approved and supported by the local municipality. Next, the facility must have:

  • An identified area specifically suitable for marijuana consumption, as well as smoke-free areas. DCE rules do allow facilities in which only non-smokable cannabis is consumed; in these spaces, no specified place for smoking cannabis is required.
  • A smoke-free area for employees to monitor the marijuana consumption area. Facility operators must ensure employees are not subjected to indirect or unintended cannabis consumption while working at the facility.
  • The facility must have a ventilation system that directs air from the marijuana consumption area to the outside of the building, through a filtration system designed to remove visual smoke and odor.
  • The facility must have sufficient walls and barriers to ensure smoke does not infiltrate into nonsmoking areas or adjacent spaces.

Additionally, when applying to be a Designated Consumption Establishment for marijuana in Michigan, microbusinesses will need to submit the following information as well:

  • A Designated Consumption Establishment Plan, or diagram of the facility that explains layout, defines facility locations, and indicates distinct areas or structures distinguishing a DCE from other licenses that may be applicable in adjacent locations.
  • Building, Construction and Zoning Details so the MRA can verify a safe operation including building and fire safety review, plus ensure a detrimental impact will not occur on adjacent businesses and residences.
  • A Business Plan that must include proposed hours of operation and, if part of the plan, the intended mechanisms for consumers to acquire cannabis at the facility.
  • A Plan for Responsible Operations such as an employee training program, how consumption will be monitored, plus prevention of over-intoxication, underage access, and the illegal sale or distribution of cannabis within the establishment.
  • Waste Management Plan for handling and disposal of any waste at the facility, including unconsumed cannabis products left by patrons of the facility.

Applicants for a Designated Consumption Establishment for Marijuana in Michigan also must undergo a preliminary background check. The Initial Applicant fee for a Designated Consumption Establishment is currently $1,000 and is valid for one year. The renewal fee is also $1,000. Like all other Michigan dispensaries and other licenses, MRA reserves the right to increase fees collected by 10% each year.

A model to follow?

Many states have the same issue that Michigan is trying to deal with right now. As previously mentioned, most states require cannabis consumption to take place on private property, but very few states have cannabis consumption establishments. This leads to more public consumption, and more arrests or citations.

A few states like Colorado have attempted to create consumption establishments, but have fallen short due to restrictions on smoking indoors in Denver. While dabbing and vaping is popular, most people are comfortable doing that in a place they rent since the smell doesn’t stick around.

We have yet to see how the Designated Consumption Establishments will pan out in Michigan or if certain municipalities will ban them all together. The Marijuana Regulatory Agency plans to finalize their rules and begin implementation in January 2021.

Lowell Farms: A Cannabis Cafe Review

Lowell Farms: A Cannabis Cafe Review

The world’s first legal cannabis cafe is now open in the United States. Does it meet the hype?

Cannabis culture has grown exponentially since cannabis was first legalized recreationally in Colorado in 2012. With more states starting their own legal cannabis industries than ever before, the stigma surrounding cannabis is finally being broken down piece by piece.

As cannabis becomes more culturally accepted into the mainstream, so grows the cannabis consumer base, looking for a place to enjoy their cannabis. Unfortunately, a lot of states have laws on the books preventing public consumption, which means that you can only consume cannabis on private property. For a lot of people that rent, it just isn’t possible.

While some attempts at cannabis consumption businesses have popped up, they are very limited in their permissions, with all of them only allowing vaping, edibles or dabbing, with no smoking of flower allowed. That is, until now.

Lowell Farms: a Cannabis Cafe

Lowell Farms is a well known name in the California cannabis industry, with their pre-roll joint packs being found on just about every dispensary shelf in the state. But Lowell is more than that now. They are also the first company to open a legal cannabis consumption cafe in the United States.

So how does the world’s first cannabis cafe operate? Well it’s not like any dispensary or cafe you’ve ever been to, that’s for sure.

The best way to describe Lowell Farms cannabis cafe is a half restaurant, half dispensary hybrid. You can get your food and your cannabis from the same place, but not from the same people. If that sounds confusing, let me dive into the full experience for you.

The Lowell Farms Experience

It’s an incredibly simple concept, that works alright in practice. When you walk into Lowell Farms Cannabis Cafe, you wouldn’t be wrong if you mistook it for your average restaurant. It has an indoor and outdoor seating area, a bar in the middle of the dining room, and hustling and bustling waiters and waitresses.

After being seated, you’re given not one, but two menus. The first is your average food and drink menu with soft drinks, tea, coffee, small plates and lunch entrees. The second menu is the cannabis menu. This menu has your pre-rolls, joint packs, concentrates, and flower to pick from.

When your first server comes to the table, you can order tea, coffee, other drinks and food off of the first menu, just like your average dining experience. But then your second server comes, who would be described better as a walking dispensary.

The cannabis server came up and took our order just like the food server did, but because the cafe is half restaurant and half dispensary, the orders are taken and paid for (and tipped) separately, which can be a hassle especially if you decide you want seconds. The selection of cannabis products is varied, and there are a lot of options to pick from, including outdoor, greenhouse and indoor cannabis flower, hash-packed pre-rolls and more.

The food came out less than 5 minutes after we ordered it, which is great. Unfortunately, we had just rolled up our first joint, and had to let the food sit while we smoked. If there was a little more delay between servers with the cannabis coming out first followed by the food, the experience definitely wouldn’t feel so rushed.

The Products

California cannabis is world renowned, and only having tried it one other time back in 2013 I wanted to take advantage. While Lowell Farms actually allows customers to bring their own cannabis for $20, buying your cannabis there gets you a rolling tray, grinder and papers that you would otherwise need to bring yourself, so we went with buying ours there. Not just to save us the trouble of bringing our own, but to really see what kind of products they are selling.

The pricing of each product seemed to vary on whether it was indoor or outdoor, in addition to brand name. Upon asking our budtender/server how the prices were structured, we were told that the prices are set according to what the cafe pays their vendors to get it all. If that’s the case, Lowell Farms must be paying a pretty penny for their product.

We will dive into the costs of the Lowell Farms Cannabis Cafe experience soon, but for now let’s dive into the actual product. We decided to keep it simple on our visit, and only bought an eighth of flower. Out of the 20-30 flower options on the menu, only the first two were not indoor-grown, and they were also the cheapest. Other than that, the prices slowly rose as you went down the menu, with the “exotic” strains being the most expensive at the bottom. We went with a middle of the road Zkittles eighth, grown indoors.

As much as I hate to say it for the price we paid, I have seen Colorado outdoor that looked better than this cannabis. That’s not to say it didn’t look good, smoke well, taste good and get the job done, but I just wasn’t impressed with the look. Machine trimmed, compact nugs with not much trichome shine on the outside, and a sweet and mild fruit smell when you cracked the bud open. Throughout our time there we rolled up four joints, and had about a gram and half left by the time we decided to head out.

That’s really it. You get some food, you get some cannabis, and you enjoy. We weren’t rushed out the door with our leftover cannabis once we were done eating, but we did feel a little odd sticking around 30 minutes after we finished our meal to keep smoking, especially knowing that servers are trying to hustle as many tables as possible. But like I said, had we had more time before the food arrived to enjoy our cannabis, it probably wouldn’t have been an issue.

Now let’s get down to the biggest pitfall of Lowell Farms Cannabis Cafe – the price.

The Price of a Good Time

Can you really put a price on a good time? At Lowell Farms Cannabis Cafe, the answer is yes and then some.

I get it. This is the first cannabis cafe in the history of the United States, there’s a lot of demand, and it’s in Los Angeles which is an expensive city. It should be no surprise that a cafe that advertises itself as a luxury cannabis lifestyle experience charges a premium for it. But let’s put it all in perspective.

In our time at Lowell Farms Cannabis Cafe, we purchased one eighth of flower and one pre-roll with some hash in it. Our total was over $100. Throw in the $24 for the meal we split, and you’re looking at an expensive experience just to smoke in peace and have a snack. When an eighth of cannabis costs $55 without any tax, you expect a certain quality, and frankly the flower we got from Lowell Farms did not meet that standard for me.

Is Lowell Farms Cannabis Cafe Worth It?

As a one-time experience to check out the only cannabis cafe in the country? Yes, it is worth it.

Being in a public space with a hundred other people, all just relaxing, smoking and enjoying good food is a real sight to see. It makes me so excited for the future cannabis cafes that are bound to start popping up across the country, and competitive market is going to drive down the prices for these places over time.

But for Lowell Farms Cannabis Cafe, there are still a lot of adjustments to be made before it’s a real accessible, enjoyable experience for your average cannabis consumer. The cannabis is insanely over-priced, and it all comes pre-packed. Our flower had been sitting in its jar since July 2019, and we went to Lowells in Mid-November.

In a realistic Lowell Farms Cannabis Cafe experience, the cheapest flower you’ll find will still be over $60 with tax (and that’s the outdoor), the concentrates will be over $70 (without tax) for half a gram, and the pre-rolls come small. But for a once in a lifetime experience that you can’t find anywhere else in the country, Lowell Farms Cannabis Cafe is worth a visit.