Kalamazoo brewpub creating ‘safe place’ for cannabis culture

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Mark Rupert is still in shock at how well his first private cannabis gathering went, he said. At the beginning of the night on January 12, only 15 people showed up. Within an hour, at least 100 people had walked through the doors at Rupert's Brew House.

“Everyone embraced it,” said Rupert during an interview at his pub. “There was not anybody getting loud. I think the only guy that got too loud was a guy who yelled ‘freedom’ and thank you for him.”

Rupert said he knows the feeling. There was no fighting or “riff raft” that night. People were lounging, drinking beer, listening to jazz music and participating in what he’s calling "cannabis culture." It was a calm scene all night even when the authorities walked in.

“We did have the Kalamazoo Police Department come in,” Rupert said. “[The officer] was very nice and I was equally nice to her. And that’s the goal: we can all be working together.”

The exchange was friendly, he said. Attendees were 21-and-over and they had to pay a $5 fee to get in. They also didn’t sell anything once they were inside. They were not allowed to. Rupert’s plan was to create a safe space for cannabis connoisseurs.

“It’s kind of like a home brew club but for cannabis,” Rupert said.

Rupert's Brew House opened five years ago and since then he hosts Comedy Night and Jazz Night on a weekly basis, he said. However after Prop 1 passed during the November elections,  making cannabis recreational, he decided to add another event to his pub’s list of activities. That’s when he started making the necessary phone calls to find out how he could do the events legally.

“I worked with a lot of different people, a lot of different lawyers, some previous employees of LARA, the MLCC and talked to them and they said ‘ya know’ it's a private event,’” Rupert said. “It’s the same thing as if you’re holding a wedding reception or birthday party or company outing.”

With their advice and approval, he hosted his first event. Now, he’d like to host them multiple times a month with the goal of eliminating the negativity that’s associated with cannabis.

“People still have a stigma about cannabis,” Rupert said. “I  think [the events] is a way for them to get over it and come and join together and say that we want this to be apart of our community.”

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