Amsterdam-style cannabis cafes could be coming to California under a new Assembly bill from Matt Haney, and you’d be able to have regular food and beverages while toking up, but alcoholic drinks would not be in the mix.
We already have cannabis “smoking lounges” in San Francisco and a few other California cities (they prefer to be called “consumption lounges”). But the only thing you can consume in a cannabis consumption lounge is, you know, cannabis. Sure, you can buy weed-infused gummies, cookies, edibles, or beverages and enjoy them in a consumption lounge, but it's still nothing like a proper restaurant or cafe.
Now a new bill from Matt Haney would allow cannabis cafes that serve a full range of restaurants-style food and drinks, and also allow them live entertainment permits, in the spirit of an Amsterdam coffeeshop. But we should be clear that the drinks would be non-alcoholic. You cannot sell marijuana and alcohol under the same roof or on the same premises, and Haney’s bill would not change that.
Nonetheless, food, coffee, and mocktails could be on the menu. “Many people want to consume cannabis socially while having a sandwich or listening to music,” Haney told the Chronicle. “We should allow that.”
Haney’s just-introduced bill is called AB 374 and would let permitted cannabis consumption lounges to get into the business of “selling non-cannabis-infused food, selling nonalcoholic beverages, and allowing, and selling tickets for, live musical or other performances.” Think wine bars and brewpubs, just without the alcohol.
Cafe Flore in the Castro tried something similar in 2017 with a cannabis cocktail menu, which was available briefly, but was quickly scuttled by state regulations. Some dispensaries with smoking lounges have hosted drag and comedy shows, or will let you watch the game on a big TV in the smoking lounge, but there’s no real food and beverage services. There were supposed to be a few cannabis cafes and restaurants in West Hollywood, which sure drew significant national media curiosity, but only one or two of them ever appeared to open, and they've since been shuttered and seem to have uncertain futures.
And that’s the rub with this whole legal marijuana industry. Shop owners (and their investors) thought in 2018 that they were all going to get Google-Facebook rich, and that definitely has not happened. There have even been recent discussions at the SF Board of Supervisors level of putting a moratorium on new dispensaries, because the market is so saturated. So even if Assembymember Matt Haney might have aspirations of some cannabis tourism or revenue boom, the regulations and costs involved with consumption lounges switching to food and beverage service might make cannabis retailers lose their appetite for it.
Image: Justin Aikin via Unsplash