If you’ve been to the red light district in Amsterdam, you may have seen the infamous coffee shops up and down the block. In the U.S., no state has anything remotely close to a cannabis bar or coffee shop where you go to not only purchase your cannabis on site but use it within the confines of the shop/cafe along with other food, drinks, and even events. At most, the U.S. has consumption lounges where you B.Y.O.G. in a pretty boring and restrictive setting.
Consumption lounges sound great but, in reality, they can be inconvenient for consumers who would rather buy their cannabis on the spot after firsthand evaluation, and for those who would like to use their cannabis while also being able to consume food and beverages at the same time. Recently, California decided it may flirt with real-deal California cannabis cafes, which would be a first in the U.S. cannabis union.
AB-347 and California cannabis cafes
On February 1st, San Francisco Assembly Member Matt Haney introduced AB-374. The bill would allow cities and counties to pass local laws that allow:
“a retailer or microbusiness to conduct business activities on the premises other than the smoking, vaporizing, and ingesting of cannabis or cannabis products, including, but not limited to, selling non-cannabis-infused food, selling nonalcoholic beverages, and allowing, and selling tickets for, live musical or other performances.”
The proposed law builds off of California’s existing statutes that allow consumption lounges.
California cannabis cafes in action
The language in the bill states:
. . . a local jurisdiction may allow for the smoking, vaporizing, and ingesting of cannabis or cannabis products on the premises of a retailer or microbusiness . . . if all of the following are met:
(A) Access to the area where cannabis consumption is allowed is restricted to persons 21 years of age or older.
(B) Cannabis consumption is not visible from any public place or nonage-restricted area.
(C) Sale or consumption of alcohol or tobacco is not allowed on the premises.
. . . a local jurisdiction may allow the retailer or microbusiness to conduct business activities on the premises other than the smoking, vaporizing, and ingesting of cannabis or cannabis products, including, but not limited to, any of the following:
(A) Selling non-cannabis-infused food.
(B) Selling non-alcoholic beverages.
(C) Allowing, and selling tickets for, live musical or other performances.
That “but not limited to” is incredibly interesting in that these California cannabis cafes could end up offering more than just events, food, and non-boozy drinks. What about a VR cannabis cafe? Or a cannabis cat cafe (Japanese style)?
So long as California’s Department of Cannabis Control wouldn’t put the damper on it with future regulation (and assuming existing food and beverage and health and safety laws don’t conflict), the ideas are somewhat limitless. Assembly Member Haney even hinted at cannabis drag brunches.
Locals will decide on California cannabis cafes
California consumption lounges have failed to launch mainly because of local control: cities and counties (with limited exception) don’t permit consumption lounges within their borders. Local control was and is a key component of legalization in California, and the overwhelming majority of California cities and counties still prohibit all forms or most forms of commercial cannabis activity.
While the idea of enhancing the consumer experience through cannabis cafes is a nice one, if the locals don’t buy in, these cafes will crash and burn like consumption lounges. Further, only retailers and microbusinesses with retail components can envisage consumption lounges, which also require a large capital outlay that may not be financially viable (and likely isn’t in harmony with IRC 280E).
That said, with the ability to sell food and drinks and host events, these cafes could drive some serious consumer traffic if done correctly. And that just might make it worthwhile for cannabis licensees.