California lawmakers send cannabis cafe bill to governor for signature

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A bill that would allow California cannabis retailers to operate traditional kitchens and host events at their stores has advanced to Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Assembly Bill 374 was widely approved by the Assembly on Monday, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The proposal would remove some of the state’s biggest restrictions on marijuana consumption lounges, namely allowing operators to serve prepared foods and beverages as well as host music events.

“Lots of people want to enjoy legal cannabis in the company of others,” Assembly Member Matt Haney, who sponsored the measure, said in a statement, the newspaper reported.

“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.”

The law would go into effect Jan. 1, 2024, if Newsom signs the bill.

The allowances would be applied only in jurisdictions that allow consumption lounges, a potential obstacle in many cities and counties.

The state does not issue specific consumption lounge licenses, so applicants can apply only for local retail permits.

Under California’s strict rules, generating revenue at consumption lounges is also a major challenge for licensees, who:

  • Currently must rely on third-party providers for prepared foods and beverages, typically via delivery.
  • Are allowed to sell only cannabis and accessories or rent out smoking devices.

Consumption lounges are generally seen as the marijuana industry’s next iteration across the United States, but administrative setbacks, regulatory delays and widespread prohibitions have curtailed growth nationwide.

In Las Vegas, some lounge operators had hoped to open their doors this summer, but timelines have been derailed amid funding concerns and changing regulations.

In May, Massachusetts regulators scrapped a pilot program to establish marijuana cafes in 12 municipalities, likely ending the potential for consumption spaces to open in the state this year.

The vast majority of licensed consumption lounges in California – and the U.S., for that matter – are located in Oakland, San Francisco and West Hollywood.