Now that the longstanding stigma against cannabis use is fading into the past, a growing number of city governments are finally deciding to relax their opposition to public pot consumption.
The latest example of this increased acceptance of cannabis is playing out in Royal Oak, Michigan, a suburb about 3 miles outside of the Detroit city limits. Last week, the Royal Oak City Council unanimously voted to allow adults to buy and smoke weed at its annual Arts, Beats & Eats event. The permit will make this year's festival, which will be held from September 1 to September 4, one of the few Michigan events to ever allow simultaneous cannabis and alcohol sales.
This year's festival will include a fenced-in legal cannabis area with space for 362 weed lovers. The cannabis zone will include a privacy-screened vendor area that will sell pre-rolls, vape carts, and edibles. Adults will also be allowed to blaze up in a public consumption area that will employ fans and air filters to help block the dank smoke from overwhelming the festival. The event producers will also hire private security to oversee ID checks and purchases and keep watch over the festivities inside the tent.
The festival's organizers tried to roll a cannabis lounge into their event last year, too, but Royal Oak Mayor Michael Fournier voted against it. At the time, the mayor raised concerns that tacking weed onto the event would take the focus away from arts, music, and food. Fortunately for the event producers (and local stoners), the mayor decided to take a chance this year and voted to approve the permit for a one-year trial period.
“It’ll be interesting to see how it works,” Fournier told C&G Newspapers. “I’ll support it for the sake of experimentation. If it’s executed properly and well and it doesn’t detract from the festival, I think it could be something to stay. If it does detract from the festival, meaning it becomes the main focal point and all of that, I’ll probably have a change of heart next year.”
The Royal Oak Police Department actively encouraged the city council to say no to pot last year as well. But after conducting a little research on the matter, Police Chief Michael Moore decided not to oppose the event this year. Moore reached out to three other Michigan towns that allowed both weed and booze to be sold at recent events and learned that public pot consumption did not lead to any major incidents.
“I think our track record of being a low-incident event, the track record of cannabis events being low incident, the stellar law enforcement planning that has gone into the event, our private security, our partnership dealing with a lot of issues and a lot of people over time, I think … that we will not have trouble in any way, shape or form and we are only asking for the commission for a one-year trial to see how it goes,” said event producer Jon Witz to C&G Newspapers.
The council's decision is a welcome change for Michigan, which prohibits public cannabis use, just like most other adult-use states do. The only exception to this rule is New York, which allows adults to smoke weed anywhere that tobacco smoking is allowed. The Empire State even allowed public pot use at the State Fair, but apparently people smoked so much weed there in 2021 that officials may set up a designated smoking area this year.
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