Michigan prides itself as a year-round tourism state and Grand Rapids is a superstar when it comes to hosting out-of-towners. With its many conventions and attractions like the Frederik Meijer Gardens, festivals including Art Prize, and colleges and universities people converge on the city every month. You might think cannabis tourism would be thriving in Michigan.
Almost every day at Pharmhouse Wellness we meet people who are traveling here looking to buy cannabis. While more and more Midwestern states are legalizing, people from Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin turn to the Mitten for legal cannabis. Michigan is also one of the few states with a reciprocal medical marijuana program—which means people who hold med cards in another state are welcome to shop here in Michigan.
Cannabis tourism is a growing area for many communities in Michigan. Municipalities that have opted in for recreational cannabis have the opportunity to promote their cannabis businesses, but few do. Michigan has more than 700 marijuana dispensaries in operation scattered throughout the state. And while you can’t buy legal recreational cannabis in Michigan’s largest Detroit (yet) there are dispensaries in many tourist towns. Communities along Lake Michigan’s coastline from Benton Harbor near the state line with Indiana to Muskegon have a variety of cannabis stores. You’ll discover cannabis shops in Bay City in the Thumb region, in Up North places like Grayling and also in cities and tribal lands in the UP near Wisconsin.
Where To Consume
What is problematic for travelers with cannabis is finding a place to consume and what to do with the cannabis you don’t consume while here.
Where you can’t consume in Michigan is pretty clear. Some of this is Michigan law, and some are the preference of property owners and it’s not what we’d call cannabis tourism-friendly.
- In your car or driving or sitting in a vehicle on any Michigan roadway.
- In a boat on a Michigan waterway
- Out in public where anyone can see you smoking
- On private property where cannabis is expressly prohibited
- In most hotel/motel rooms or on hotel property
- Around the campfire at the Michigan State Park or on a state park beach or trail—though you can smoke cannabis in your camper or tent (aka summer hotbox) in a Michigan State Park.
Say what? Until more hotels, motels and resorts allow cannabis consumption on their properties, travelers will be challenged to find a place to consume. We wondered why this was the case.
Cannabis Tourism Challenges
“We have yet to see a community fully embrace cannabis and cannabis tourism; it’s still often held at arm’s length,” Andrew McFarlane from Michigan Cannabis Trail and Michigo said.
Michigan cannabis stores owners will tell you, and a quick web search verifies that cannabis is not embraced or even recognized by local visitor’s bureau entities. You’ll find wine, beer and distillery trails and tours—but nothing for cannabis.
You might think that Ann Arbor, Michigan’s historical epicenter of weed, might acknowledge the plant and stores there—but that’s not the case.
“There are certainly a large group of people who still think that cannabis is a bad thing—and until they’re no longer in leadership positions, we’ll always have roadblocks,” Andrew said.
There’s no legal or ethical reason that a visitor’s bureau can’t list a cannabis business as a traveler’s destination. It’s a matter of will and desire.
Andrew also pointed out that the Visitor’s Bureau in Modesto, California, created the Motown CannaPass that people can register for, which unlocks information and cannabis-friendly businesses in the community. “It’s normalizing the cannabis experience and promoting community businesses—which they should be doing,” he said.
For people traveling in Michigan who are looking for options when it comes to a consumption space, you’ll have to look carefully and plan accordingly. Finding a place to stay that is cool with cannabis is the first step—Michigan Cannabis Trail and Bud and Breakfast websites offer some options.
Cannabis Events Hold the Key
If you’re in Ann Arbor for the annual Hash Bash on the first Saturday in April—that’s a fun spot to light up. In addition, licensed cannabis events are popping up across Michigan. These licensed events allow consumption and have sales in the same place—usually with live music and other cannabis-centric activities.
Consumption, but not sales are allowed on private property and every so often we open our Pop Up Toke Tent on a piece of property near our store where you can fire up and chill out. By law we can’t sell anything in the Toke Tent, so you’ll need to stop at the store first.
Follow Pharmhouse on social media or sign up for our e-newsletter for more information on these pop-ups.
Pro-tip: As you travel in Michigan, be discrete where you fire up, and you’ll be fine.