Last weekend, tens of thousands of people visited the first legal cannabis consumption space to ever be hosted at a major outdoor festival in Michigan. And by all accounts, the event was a smashing success.
The Arts, Beats & Eats festival just wrapped up its 26th annual season this past Labor Day weekend, drawing nearly 345,000 visitors to the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak. As the name implies, the festival showcased a variety of foods, art exhibits, and music, including live performances by Joan Jett and Bell Biv DeVoe. But this year, the event offered a completely new attraction – legal cannabis.
This year's festival was the first to feature the Dank Way, a legal cannabis zone hosted by House of Dank Cannabis Company. Inside the fenced-in, privacy-screened area, ten local cannabis companies were selling a variety of legal cannabis products and merch. Uniquely, customers were allowed to light up inside the tent, which was equipped with a high-level ventilation system to help disperse the dank smoke. Of course, the weed zone was 21+, and security guards checked each patron's ID before they entered the tent.
The Dank Way was “spectacular and well-attended,” festival producer Jon Witz told The Oakland Press. “There were no complaints, no concerns…it was very successful. I think House of Dank put so many resources into this well-organized, unique and extremely cool area.” Witz also thanked the City of Royal Oak for being “open to trends and exploring things like this.”
Royal Oak wasn't always so amenable to allowing cannabis and alcohol to be sold at the same event. When promoters initially proposed adding a cannabis space to the festival last year, the Royal Oak City Council voted against it. But this February, the council had a change of heart and voted unanimously to approve the event on a trial basis. House of Dank is now seeking approval to return to A,B&E next year, and since the event went so well, it's looking likely that the city will greenlight their plans again.
“I thought it went fantastic,” said House of Dank's chief corporate officer Mike DiLaura to The Oakland Press. “No one has ever done this before, and I think everyone was really blown away by it. We did it compliantly, and really created a party atmosphere…I feel very strongly that it was an overwhelming hit. What I’m most proud of is we pulled it off by adding to Arts, Beats and Eats, and didn’t take away from Arts, Beats and Eats in any form.”
White Boy Rick, a former FBI informant who was sentenced to life in prison as a teenager for selling cocaine, made the first purchase at the historic event. Rick, whose birth name is Richard Wershe Jr., launched his own legal cannabis brand, The 8th, shortly after he was released from prison in 2021. The 8th is one of the ten vendors that set up a booth in the Dank Way last weekend, and Wershe was first in line to snag some vape carts and flower.
“I got to buy the very first weed here,” he told the Detroit Free Press. “This is groundbreaking, and I think it's the first of many to come.”
The cannabis space attracted a wide variety of other customers as well, including a wave of old-school pot lovers. “I’m enjoying this — and quite frankly, I wish it would become more mainstream,” said Brian Cahalan, a 71-year-old retired elementary school teacher, to the Detroit Free Press. “Most of all, I feel comfortable here.”
Cahalan is apparently not the only one who felt comfortable in the Dank Way. DiLaura estimates that about 17,000 adults checked out the cannabis space over the course of the four-day festival. Total sales figures have yet to be released, but DiLaura told The Oakland Press that customers snapped up “well over $100,000” worth of legal weed. The event went over so well, in fact, that House of Dank is considering expanding to other festivals in the state.