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Amsterdam-style hash cafes await Newsom’s approval. It’s a change of tradition, says the legislator

Californians are just one signing away from Amsterdam-style hash cafes opening across the state next year.

Laws submitted to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office for final approval will allow weed dispensaries to turn their services into cafes where they sell food and cannabis products and host live concerts. The bill was approved by the California Senate by a vote of 33-3 and by the Assembly in a final vote of 66-9 on Monday.

The bill’s author, Rep. Matt Haney (D-San Francisco), said the law would allow struggling dispensaries to generate additional sales tax revenue for the state.

While it is not technically illegal for shoppers to eat cannabis at a dispensary, it is illegal for a dispensary to sell non-cannabis products, such as coffee or food.

House Bill 374 will allow dispensaries to transition from a pharmacy-style business model to a more welcoming model. The bill will not allow hash cafes to serve alcohol, and small retailers will not be able to sell hash. Dispensaries will still need to adapt to local jurisdictions and will not be able to operate where weed retailers are banned.

The cafe model will provide dispensaries with another tool to serve customers, Haney said.

“Many people enjoy enjoying legal cannabis in the company of other people,” Haney said in a statement. “And many people like to do this while sipping an espresso, eating a scone, or listening to music. There is absolutely no good reason, from a financial, health or safety perspective, for the state to make this illegal. If a certified cannabis retailer also wants to promote a cup of coffee and a sandwich, we need to enable cities to realize that potential and stop holding these small businesses back.”

There are more than 700 coffee retailers selling cannabis in the Netherlands, and the companies make more than $1 billion in sales annually, Haney said.

His bill aims to replace a medical marijuana-only culture with a more relaxed social setting like those Dutch cafes, Haney said.

“There is a huge opportunity to bring people into these establishments to eat cannabis safely and legally, and create community and culture at the same time,” Haney told the Times.

Opponents of the bill argued that it went against California’s current anti-smoking laws.

Autumn Ogden-Smith, legislative director of the American Cancer Society Most Cancer Action Network, said the group opposed the bill and urged Newsom to veto the law. Ogden-Smith says the bill would “end years of hard work to protect Californians’ right to breathe clean, smoke-free air and would jeopardize public health.”

The nonprofit advocacy group opposes people smoking marijuana in public places and exposing others to dangerous substances through second-hand smoke.

“Allowing marijuana use in public places and expanding smoking locations undermines the effectiveness of California’s tobacco control regulations and undermines their enforcement,” Ogden-Smith said in a statement.

Haney nonetheless highlighted the benefits for small businesses.

The city of West Hollywood launched its own cannabis lounge program in 2018 with a limited number of licenses. But Haney said current laws hinder the operation of these services because a salon is simply not allowed to host on-site dining.

Hash cafes in this metropolis use workarounds to serve meals and drinks. At Artist Tree Dispensary & Weed Supply on Santa Monica Boulevard, weed smokers can stroll through the second-floor lounge as if they were eating at a restaurant. People can order meals from the Contemporary Corn Grill, a restaurant that caters to the Artist Tree.

“So we have plated meals available. We mimic the restaurant experience, even though we’re not the only ones promoting the meals,” said Lauren Fontein, co-owner of the Artist Tree. “We have to kind of cobble together the path to get there.”

While the experience is great for customers, Fontein said, the profits go to the restaurant and not his business.

“That’s the big problem, that’s why this bill is necessary,” she said. “Meals and beverages are a significant part of the revenue program, and we are not able to benefit from that at this time.”

Dispensaries can’t move forward as they try to compete with restaurants, bars and the illegal market, Haney said.

“Current laws are arbitrary and irrational,” he said, “and, admittedly, dangerous to the legal cannabis business we need to survive and thrive in our state. »

If approved by Newsom, the hash cafe law would go into effect on January 1.

Instances staff writer Noah Goldberg contributed to this report.


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