SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) — Amsterdam-style cannabis cafes may soon be able to come to California, thanks to a newly introduced bill in the Legislature. Introduced on Monday by Assembly Member Matt Haney, D-San Francisco, the bill would allow weed shops to serve food and coffee, and host live music events.
The bill hopes to help struggling pot businesses diversify in such a saturated market, and emulate the classic cannabis cafes made popular in Amsterdam, where customers can purchase a pastry and coffee alongside their cannabis. Haney’s office said the 700 cannabis cafes across the Netherlands have attracted over 1.5 million visitors a year, citing a chance for California to turn cannabis consumption into a social experience and tourism draw into empty downtowns.
“Lots of people want to enjoy legal cannabis in the company of others,” said Haney. “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 in a statement. “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.”
Cannabis lounges do exist in California – there are 13 in San Francisco – but they are prohibited from serving non-cannabis-infused products. The bill would allow these spaces to function more like wine bars or pubs, though purchasing alcohol would still be barred.
“To be clear, we’re not saying that coffee shops should be allowed to sell cannabis,” Haney said. “We’re saying that cannabis shops should be allowed to sell coffee. It shouldn’t be illegal for an existing cannabis business to move away from only selling marijuana and instead have the opportunity to grow, thrive and create jobs by offering coffee or live jazz.”
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Assembly Bill 374 is an attempt to reclaim California as the international capital of pot. Though the state is known as the birthplace of cannabis culture for its early acceptance of medical marijuana, it is still feeling the consequences of taking a pharmaceutical approach to dispensary operation policies.
Businesses across the state are having a hard time competing with illegal sellers, which can sell weed for cheaper because they circumvent the state’s tax and permitting policies.
“California’s small cannabis businesses are struggling,” said Haney. “Issues like over-saturation, high taxes, and the thriving black market are hurting cannabis businesses who follow the rules and pay taxes.”
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