Royal Oak approves cannabis sales, consumption for Arts, Beats & Eats

By: Mike Koury | Royal Oak Review | Published February 20, 2023

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ROYAL OAK — The Royal Oak City Commission voted to allow the sale and consumption of cannabis at this year’s Arts, Beats & Eats event.

At its Feb. 14 meeting, the commission voted unanimously to allow a cannabis sale and consumption area at the festival for a one-year trial period. Arts, Beats & Eats will be held Sept. 1-4 in Royal Oak.

The approved area will be located in the alley between South Center Street and Washington Avenue, between Sixth Street and Seventh Street. According to city documents, the area will be surrounded by “fencing obscuring any view from street level. The area would also have a designated entrance and exit and be staffed by private security. Only those 21 years of age and older would be permitted to enter the area.”

The consumption area will be 18 by 100 feet with a projected capacity of 112 people. A tent from House of Dank will be 20 by 40 feet with a projected capacity of 50 people with a green screen for privacy. The vendor area will be 20 by 160 feet with a projected capacity of 200 people with a green screen for privacy. The total area’s projected capacity is 362 people.

This is not the first time the measure has been proposed for Arts, Beats & Eats, as organizers came before the commission last year for the same request. However, the proposal was rejected.

Royal Oak Police Chief Michael Moore, who opposed the addition of sales and consumption last year, stated the department was neutral to the proposal this time around.

Moore detailed the department’s research into the proposal. He stated that there have been three temporary marijuana event licenses issued by the Cannabis Regulatory Agency; they were for events located in Marquette, Manistee and South Branch Township that also involved the sale of alcohol. Police departments from those locations reported no major incidents from these events, according to Moore.

Moore also said the department looked into the Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco, as it is a similar event in size and length. Police from the area told Moore that there have not been any major incidents at the festival since adding cannabis sales and consumption four years ago and that police officers are detailed to the event, except for the cannabis sales and consumption area.

Regarding the odor that could surface within the designated area, Moore said event producer Jon Witz said there will be fans and other filtration devices to help mitigate those concerns.

“(Witz) has also reached out to the businesses and apartment complexes that are adjacent to this proposed area and has not received any opposition to this one-year trial period,” Moore said.

The cannabis that would be sold and could be consumed includes pre-rolled marijuana cigarettes, edibles and cannabis vape cartridges. The tent would have private security that would oversee identification checks, purchases and behavior within.

“This area is also near two churches that contain schools, but neither of the schools would be in session during the event and neither church has voiced any opposition to this trial period,” Moore said. “And for those reasons, the Police Department is remaining neutral.”

Witz said organizers are taking an active role in promoting 85% of the festival as nonsmoking and they would be relying on a strong volunteer contingent and signage to help keep people compliant in smoking in the designated area.

“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,” he said.

Witz said there still are state and liquor license approvals pending for the event.

“This is our brand and we take its stewardship very seriously,” he said. “It may be something that is great and naturally, seamlessly fits in, and it may be something that does not go long term. But I do think we are the right event, the right team and the right partners, you know, to make this happen.”

Mayor Michael Fournier voted against the measure last year. He stated he wasn’t sure how he felt about the proposal, though he doesn’t have any feelings about marijuana that are any different than he would have about alcohol.

What Fournier is worried about and doesn’t want is for the event to become marijuana and cannabis focused, so that the draw of the festival is no longer the music, food and art.

“It’ll be interesting to see how it works. I’ll support it for the sake of experimentation,” he said. “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.”