A bill that would clear the way for cannabis businesses to open recreational “cafés” to enjoy their product in public with others has advanced out of the California legislature and is headed to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk.
Assembly Bill 374 was drafted by Assemblymember Matt Haney (D-San Francisco) and would allow local California governments to license the “Amersterdam-style” cafés to allow recreational cannabis users to get high in a designated business where they can also enjoy coffee, food and live entertainment.
“Lots of people want to enjoy legal cannabis in the company of others,” Haney said. “And many people want to do that while sipping coffee, eating a scone, or listening to music. There’s absolutely no good reason from an economic, health, or safety standpoint that the state should make that illegal.”
Haney said he drafted the bill to help out struggling cannabis businesses that were struggling due to “over-saturation, high taxes, and the thriving black market.”
The Assembly member’s office says California’s legal cannabis sales reached $4 billion in 2020, while illegal sales are believed to have more than doubled that.
While adults are technically allowed to consume cannabis at a dispensary, the businesses are not allowed to sell any “non-cannabis-infused” products, i.e., coffee, pastries or other items. If Newsom signs the bill into law, it would allow cities and counties the ability to change that, making California’s cannabis industry look a bit more like Amsterdam’s.
Some cities already allow for cannabis lounges, including West Hollywood, where two cannabis consumption lounges currently operate. In Amsterdam, meanwhile, there are more than 700 cafés.
Haney hopes that by making it easier for other cities and counties to follow their lead, struggling cannabis businesses will get a boost and California can capture the title of the world’s cannabis capital.
“If an authorized cannabis retail store wants to also sell a cup of coffee and a sandwich, we should allow cities to make that possible and stop holding back these small businesses,” Haney said.
Newsom has not publicly signaled any intentions to sign the bill into law, but the legislation did receive bipartisan support throughout the process, passing the California State Senate with a 33 to 3 vote and the Assembly with a 66 to 9 tally.