The desire for cannabis consumption lounges in legal cannabis markets is rising.

For example, some Michigan cities are moving toward the consumption lounge trend. In Lansing, city officials recently granted conditional approvals for four businesses to open consumption lounges—many of which could come online this year.

And one of the state’s first licensed cannabis consumption lounges, Hot Box Social, opened in Hazel Park about two weeks ago.

So, what do these consumption lounges look like? Cannabis Business Times caught up with Nowfal Akash, the chief information officer at Troy-based Trucenta, a vertically integrated cannabis business, which owns and operates Hot Box Social, to get the inside scoop.

Located at 23619 John R. Road in Hazel Park, Mich. (just outside Detroit), Hot Box Social hosts private events such as fundraisers and product launches where vendors can come in, rent the space, and invite people to try their cannabis products on-site, Akash tells Cannabis Business Times.

The venue has already hosted two fundraising events: one for a Warren councilwoman and another for a Hazel Park councilman, Akash says, adding that one was running for state representative, while the other was running for Congress.

© Courtesy of Hot Box Social

Hot Box Social

“We also had about four or five corporate events where they were more brand-related, brand launches, or just product launches of an existing brand,” he says. “Typically, they like to invite the budtenders from the different retailers that they currently sell to so that they can educate them, so in turn [they can] educate the consumers. So, it’s a great way to promote products because the budtenders can actually try them out there and experience them.”

Akash says one of Hot Box Social’s goals is to host ticketed events, where they can collaborate with other businesses in the area.

“We’re looking at some collaborations with local restaurant tours in the area in Hazel Park to be able to maybe offer a dinner and a movie or a dinner and a comedy show, something [where] we can include rideshare services in the ticket price, to make sure everybody gets home safe,” he says.

Hot Box Social’s indoor facility boasts about 3,000 square feet and holds about 200 people, Akash says, adding that the facility is currently building out a 600-square-foot kitchen, which will be used to provide regular or cannabis-infused food to the public or lounge, depending on specific event caterers.

He also adds that the outside space, including the front and back of the premises, will add an additional 5,000 square feet when completed.

“That will include covered areas [and] atriums,” he says. “We’ll have some fire pits depending on what’s going on, [there] could be tents, movie screens, or stages. So, there’s a lot of flexibility there. The whole space is set up to be modular and reconfigurable. We have movable furniture, [and] anything that’s really heavy is on casters. It’s really easy to kind of customize the space to the occasion.”

“In addition to that, we really invested in the technology,” he adds. “Similar to some bars and restaurants where they [have a] video matrix, we can play anything on one or any of the [television’s] along with the sound system too.”

Aside from events, Akash says Hot Box Social will be open to the general public by mid to late summer.

By law, Hot Box Social is not allowed to sell cannabis products within the establishment, Akash says.

“Currently, in Michigan, a retailer that is approved for home delivery can deliver to a home or any residential address or designated consumption establishment,” he says,

The goal is to have kiosks or iPads available at the lounge for consumers to purchase products from a licensed retailer, or they could use their mobile phones to place orders, he says.

Hot Box Social is working on an integration with Breeze, a cannabis dispensary located in Hazel Park that is also owned by Trucenta.

Regarding consumers being able to bring in cannabis, Akash says that will not be allowed as they want to ensure all product consumed on-site is coming from a licensed retailer.

He also notes that Hot Box Social is working with local glassmakers and artists to curate items for consumption to be sold at the lounge. He says that renting consumption accessories for use is currently unclear due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The goal is to have supervised consumption. So, the people there are going to be educated with all different aspects of cannabis and its uses and its effects,” he says.

Looking ahead, Akash says he could see consumption lounges becoming widely accepted, as Hot Box Social has already received positive feedback from the community thus far.

“For the fundraisers specifically, we had mayors from other cities, council people, state reps, senators, and they were just like, ‘Wow, … this is just a beautiful space. It’s great that we had the ability to consume cannabis there, but I think just as a venue, it’s a beautiful space,'” he says. “And I think once they start seeing the different measures and steps Trucenta’s taken to make sure that this is a safe environment, they’re a little bit more open to opting in.

“And I think that’s the challenge because the city’s going to have to allow these things for them to exist. … I think a lot of these cities have caught on and seen how [cultivation sites and retail stores] integrate in the community and some of the benefits of having them there. So, I think it’s just going to be a matter of time before this is a little bit more widely accepted.”