A red-hot new segment of the industry is taking off, with little direction and massive obstacles
In theory, consumption lounges should be where the rubber meets the road in the cannabis industry. But while new lounges are opening across the country, operators don’t seem to have much runway to work with under the current regulations.
California in 2019 was the first state to allow licensed consumption lounges to open — and then the coronavirus pandemic hit and the segment was left idling. By the time the world was ready to stop working from home, Alaska was already running consumption lounges, Colorado, Illinois and Michigan were launching their programs, and Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico, New Jersey and New York were developing their own regulations.
Today, lounges are open in Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan and New Mexico.
But business owners in the fast-growing segment are hopeful the regulations, which were built around the regulatory framework of the existing state cannabis industries and don’t necessarily lend themselves well to hospitality businesses, will ease as the new segment finds its footing.
Marijuana Venture reached out to operators in open and upcoming states to see what these businesses can legally offer consumers, what is currently working for their business models and what they hope to incorporate in the future.
More than just a clever name, the Four Twenty Bank Dispensary & Lounge is not just a former bank that was converted into a cannabis retail store and consumption lounge, it’s also a venue that has already seen acts like the hip hop group Kottonmouth Kings and country music star Aaron Lewis, as well as a number of cannabis influencers.
“After having a cannabis store in the Coachella Valley for 10 years or so now, I wanted to do something more and I found a way to do it that brings in everyone to have a good time,” says owner Julie Montante. “We’ve had a lot of great entertainers and we have a lot of stars that come by and hang out. It’s just a lot of fun.”
While the lounge is regularly booking acts to draw in customers, nearly every event is free, Montante says. For larger acts, like Aaron Lewis, the lounge will sell tickets, but Montante says she doesn’t want to keep anyone out. In addition to live entertainment, the lounge houses numerous other amenities such as pool tables, arcade games, nine flatscreen televisions, weekend barbecues, food service from several partnering restaurants, weekly events, seasonal events, consumption equipment rentals and will soon open the private rooms on the upper floor of the lounge to host vendors looking to meet the lounge patrons.
“The only thing we can’t do is alcohol,” Montante says.