Here come the cannabis events.
Sure, we’ve had the High Times Cannabis Cups events in Detroit for a few years now, and Ann Arbor’s long-running Hash Bash, that one magical day in April each year where law enforcement turns a blind eye to open tokers gathered at the University of Michigan’s Diag, has been a tradition since the ’70s.
But this weekend, Ypsilanti will host its first officially licensed cannabis event with the inaugural Canna Jam Festival on Saturday.
“The city of Ypsilanti was the first place we asked,” says Michael Komorn, a cannabis attorney and the event’s organizer. “We were happy and thankful that Ypsilanti is forward-thinking that these things should happen and they supported us from the outset.”
Cannabis will be allowed to be purchased and consumed right on-site at Ypsi’s Riverside Park, the same location of the Michigan Brewers Guild’s Summer Beer Festival. There won’t be any alcohol served at Canna Jam Festival, though — only pot from cannabis vendors like the Botanical Co., Sticky Ypsi, Pure Lapeer, Oz Cannabis, and more.
Komorn says cannabis events, authorized under Michigan’s 2018 ballot proposal to legalize marijuana for adult use, are by law not allowed to serve booze. But he thinks that means the crowd will actually be more well-behaved than at an event with alcohol.
“Adult responsible use is a theme that has long been understood within, I think, the cannabis community," he says.
The hardest part of throwing the event, Komorn says, was navigating a system with little precedent yet. He obtained a temporary event license for $6,000, which needs to be renewed every year for $1,000. That makes Komorn eligible to organize a cannabis event in any municipality that will allow it, which then needs to be signed off on by the state. He can’t sell cannabis, but the vendors can, as long as they follow the same tracking rules as the state’s brick-and-mortar dispensaries.
Once the licensing hurdle was cleared, Komorn says the biggest issue was obtaining insurance for the event, which required a $1 million policy per occurrence from the insurance company — about the same as what the beer fest requires, he says. Komorn says he’s confident that as more cannabis events happen, that cost will become more affordable. “It’s only because it has not happened a lot, and there’s not a lot of insurance companies in this space, and there haven’t been, generally speaking, nationally many of these events like there are for these alcohol-based events,” Komorn says. “Basically, they're still feeling their oats, as well. … The point is that it’s still a new era and there’s not a lot of actors in this particular space.”
Proceeds from the event will go toward the John Sinclair Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to preserve the works of the eponymous pot activist and inspiration of the Hash Bash, as well as the Redemption Foundation, which aims to help individuals impacted by the war on drugs. Both Sinclair and the Redemption Foundation’s Ryan Basore will be available at Canna Jam for a meet and greet with VIP ticket-holders.
The Canna Jam organizers say they avoided working with companies that are part of the Michigan Cannabis Manufacturers Association, a conglomeration of corporations lobbying to crack down on the law that allows so-called caregivers to grow their own cannabis at home to give directly to medical marijuana patients. (State law allows licensed caregivers to cultivate up to 12 marijuana plants, or up to 72 plants if the caregiver is also registered as a medical marijuana patient. The MCMA says it is doing so because it wants to get untested products out of the marketplace, but opponents say their motives are profit-driven.)
The Canna Jam event will also feature food, beverage, and other vendors. Entertainment includes comedian and Southfield native Mike Young as well as former Detroit Red Wing and cannabis entrepreneur Darren McCarty, who will perform as part of his “Comedy Slapstick Tour.” Komorn says he hopes that Canna Jam can eventually evolve into a comedy festival akin to the Sundance Film Festival.
The evening will close out with a performance by Pink Floyd cover band Echoes of Pink Floyd, which, naturally, includes a laser light show.
“This is a celebration of rights that have been long overdue,” says Tom Beller, who performs in Echoes of Pink Floyd and whose cannabis cultivation company, Real Leaf Solutions, is a major sponsor of the event. “It’s time for us to come together and enjoy an evening of cannabis consumption, comedy, some great music, a laser light show, and levity. It’s going to be a great opportunity for us to see how far we actually have come to normalize the consumption of cannabis.”
The Canna Jam Festival will be held from noon-10 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 9 at Riverside Park, 2 E. Cross St., Ypsilanti; cannajamfest.com.Tickets are $30 for general admission and $125 for VIP, with discounts available to students. Attendees must be 21 or older.