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Sanders' Pot Vow Boosts Cru Hemp Lounge, Weed Franchises


Cru Hemp Lounge, where patrons can use hookahs, smokable hemp and other legal products, will benefit if marijuana becomes legal in the United States, its owners believe.

Bernie Sanders’ declaration about marijuana during the Democratic presidential candidates’ debate this week was a boost to Dennis McKinley. “I just heard Bernie Sanders say, if I’m elected, it will be legal,” said McKinley, who owns two cannabis franchises—Cru Hemp Lounge and Carolina Hemp Company—with business partner Greg George.

The two men are “laying the groundwork now” for what they believe is inevitable, legalized marijuana on the federal level, whether Sanders wins in 2020 or not, obviously not a sure thing. 

“I’m an economist by study, and we’re going to let those guys fight about getting licenses and et cetera, et cetera,” McKinley said, referring to a half-dozen franchise players trying to compete in the cannabis business (we’ll be covering them all in an upcoming story in Franchise Times.) 

“Because at one point it will be a distribution issue. They can go ahead and get this set up,” he said about competing marijuana franchises, “and then we’ll buy from them.” Empire Franchise Group will then be poised to rule the retail marijuana business, McKinley believes.

Added George, “We’re just preparing, and like our competitors, we’re laying the groundwork now. There’s nobody growing any faster than the two brands” the two partners oversee under their umbrella company, Empire Franchise Group, George believes.

George said Cru Hemp Lounge is targeted for “major metropolitan cities now, to have firm footing where there’s massive population: Las Vegas; Dallas; Austin, Texas; Charlotte, North Carolina. McKinley and George were traveling to St. Thomas in the Caribbean this week to open a Cru Hemp Lounge and a Carolina Hemp Co. there.

“This is where people can come in and have entertainment, hookah, smokable hemp, small plated food. This brand’s on fire,” George said about Cru Hemp Lounge. 

Cost for a Cru Hemp Lounge franchise is $172,500 to $552,000, with $75,000 liquid capital required. Franchise fee is $40,000. A Carolina Hemp Co. franchise costs $60,000-$100,000, with a $24,900 franchise fee and $40,000 minimum cash required. 


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About This Blog

The latest news, opinions and commentary on what's happening in the franchise arena that could affect your business.

Laura MichaelsLaura Michaels is editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is senior editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at




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