How to Host a Cannabis Consumption Festival: Advice from The Fire Station

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Music festivals and cannabis consumption go together like cookies and milk. But the hassle of sneaking the plant through security and consuming it in secret has historically damaged the experience.

Today, regulations are shifting in favor of legal cannabis sales and consumption at large-scale events. In fact, The Fire Station recently hosted Camp Cannabis, the first legal cannabis festival in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

What is Camp Cannabis?

Camp Cannabis was the first ever cannabis consumption event in Michigan's Upper Peninsula held on October 7-9, 2022. The 21+ festival was designed to create a welcoming environment to celebrate, destigmatize and experience cannabis.

This cultural experience had live performances (including Sublime with Rome, The Floozies, Afroman, Nimesh Patel, and Asher Roth), advocacy / education sessions, and over 50 unique vendors onsite.

Cannabis enthusiasts could purchase a full spectrum of legal cannabis products from the festival's fully-stocked popup dispensary and enjoy it on nearly every inch of the festival’s 40 acres.

To learn how they successfully pulled off the event, we sat down with Stosh Wasik, CEO and Co-Owner at The Fire Station and Lauren Rotundo, the Festival Director for Camp Cannabis.

The following Q&A dives into the details of Camp Cannabis, with insights and actionable tips from The Fire Station team.

Creating the Camp Cannabis concept

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How did you come up with the idea for Camp Cannabis?

Stosh: The idea of camp Cannabis came along when the state of Michigan started creating its regulatory framework for licensed marijuana consumption events. Once the city of Marquette was on board, we jumped at the opportunity to offer an event to the community and help break down the historical stigma around cannabis.

What was the early planning process like?

Stosh: Once the regulations opened up, we got started on the initial planning process. We set up weekly meetings with the festival direction team, delegated planning tasks, and started looking for a venue 10 months in advance.

The early planning was primarily spent researching and learning. We didn’t have any previous experience with an event like this, so we looked for guidance from others in our community who put on similar events. The Hiawatha Music Festival is a rather large event at Tourist Park and their team was a wealth of knowledge for us as we brought this concept to life. If you’re planning an event like this, I recommend reaching out to veterans in the space for advice, it proved to be very helpful for us.

Navigating licenses and regulations

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As the first business to host a cannabis festival in your area, did you have to deal with a lot of red tape to acquire the proper licenses and permits?

Stosh: It’s interesting, but as far as red tape goes, the licensing was the easy part. We’ve grown accustomed to the regulatory hoops that come with the cannabis industry and have an incredible licensing and compliance department to navigate those obstacles. They took care of the filing and paperwork that was required with the city and state.

Lauren: Also, the city and state were really open to working with us. Both entities wanted us to be successful. They read through drafts of our proposals and helped us get through the licensing and permitting so we could hold this event. When everyone works together, the process is very smooth.

Was any aspect of the licensing process new, unique, or unexpected?

Stosh: One of the most unique aspects of Camp Cannabis is the fact that there was alcohol allowed in the venue. Generally, cannabis consumption events aren’t allowed to also serve alcohol, but we wanted to give people both options.

Lauren: To make this happen, we worked with another company that applied for the alcohol license. There were two separate applications filed, each with the same plans for the event. This way, the state knew that both forms of consumption would be happening at the event.

Serving alcohol + cannabis

To compliantly serve both cannabis and alcohol at Camp Cannabis, The Fire Station team opted to create beer gardens and bar areas where customers could purchase and consume alcohol. These designated locations were the only places on the festival grounds where cannabis was not allowed.

Building the cannabis retail experience

cannabis festival point of sale

The Fire Station was the exclusive retailer of cannabis products at Camp Cannabis. Campers were able to explore a range of products while enjoying exclusive event discounts and flash sales. Flowhub was proud to be the official POS sponsor of Camp Cannabis, powering all legal cannabis sales at the festival.

What sort of inventory did you carry at the retail store?

Stosh: For this event to be successful, we called on the cannabis community in Michigan and asked for sponsorships. Sponsors had vendor or exhibitor booths and an opportunity to keep their products in the store. They sat right across from the retail store where they would interact with customers and direct them to the shop to purchase their products.

What products were your top sellers?

Stosh: We went through a lot of pre-rolls. That makes sense because pre-rolls are easy to grab and light up around Camp. We also sold a good number of edibles and vape cartridges — things that are easy to grab and go.

Camp by the numbers

The top selling product category at Camp Cannabis was pre-rolls, making up 32% of all sales. Concentrates and edibles followed close behind at 24% each. For flower, eighths were the top seller (14%) while half ounces (1%) and ounces (0.2%) were far less popular.

Where did you pull your dispensary staff from?

Stosh: We had budtenders from all of our locations come in to work the store and the entire admin team was all hands on deck the whole weekend. The feedback from those staff members was very positive. They were able to meet their coworkers from different cities and get to know each other in a fun environment.

Bringing the community together

cannabis festival crowd

You worked with other dispensaries at Camp Cannabis, what led you to include competitors in the festival?

Lauren: Cannabis is so competitive, but it was great to see other dispensaries be a part of Camp Cannabis. We're all working toward the same goal and it's great to see that we can put on this awesome music festival and work together collaboratively.

Stosh: That's a big reason why we went with a separate name from our own company. Instead of calling it “The Fire Station Festival,” we went with “Camp Cannabis” because cannabis is built around inclusivity. Even though we’re the ones putting the event on, we wanted to make sure everyone felt welcome. It's not us against us, it’s us against the stigma.

What do you think attracted people to this event the most?

Stosh: I think it was a little bit of everything that drew in the crowds. The fact that the event was centered around cannabis and consumption was big — that’s never been done before around here. The musical acts also drew folks in. In Marquette, nobody’s seen Sublime play anywhere nearby. Plus, having alcohol approved for the event was important, that way we could appeal to everyone.

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Advice from The Fire Station team

For those looking to hold an event like Camp Cannabis, the team at The Fire Station had some key advice to help others emulate their success.

  • Understand what you’re signing up for. Plan out the scope of your event before investing substantial time into the process.

  • Give yourself plenty of time. It took a year to plan Camp Cannabis! Avoid aggressive target dates for your first cannabis festival.

  • Work with experts in the entertainment industry. If you’re new to cannabis festivals (like most people) then work with groups who have experience with the logistics of large music events.

  • Make sure your staff is experienced with the cannabis point of sale used at your event’s dispensary.

  • Get the support of your local government. If you can, show how valuable an event like this can be for your community. You could even show them Camp Cannabis as an example!

  • Take it one step at a time. Throwing a cannabis consumption festival is a massive undertaking, but if you stay organized and aligned with your team, you set yourself up to successfully pull it off.

cannabis festival joint

Thank you to The Fire Station team for setting the standard for cannabis consumption festivals! We hope Camp Cannabis becomes an annual event, with others in the industry following your example.

Flowhub powered all cannabis retail transactions at Camp Cannabis. If you’re interested in partnering with us for similar events, book a demo.

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Nick Rudy

Nick is passionate about cultivating an inclusive, diverse, and equitable cannabis industry. He creates high-value content for cannabis retailers – including data, people profiles, templates, checklists, blogs, resources, and more. Connect with Nick on Linkedin.

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