California Bill Legalizing Cannabis Cafes Awaiting Governor’s Signature

Currently, consumption lounge operators cannot sell non-infused food or beverages.

A bill that would let California marijuana stores tack on a new business model with “cannabis cafes” – letting them sell nonalcoholic food and drinks, host live music, and set up other customer attractions – sailed through the state legislature and is now waiting for Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature.

Industry insiders say the move could boost struggling retailers all over the state by giving them more flexibility to imitate the 700-some marijuana cafes in the Netherlands, which are technically coffee shops that also happen to sell cannabis, KTLA reported.

Although consumption lounges are already legal in the state, those businesses are prohibited from selling food or beverages that aren’t cannabis-infused, meaning that it’s not very easy to make such business models profitable or even welcoming to customers. That’s what the measure, Assembly Bill 374, aims to change.

“Lots of people want to enjoy legal cannabis in the company of others,” bill author Assemblyman Matt Haney, a San Francisco Democrat, 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.”

Marijuana business owners told CBS News and the Los Angeles Times that the move would definitely help them survive the tough state market, where high taxes, the illicit underground market, and other challenges have made it nearly impossible for most legal companies to turn a profit.

“The food and beverages are a big part of the revenue scheme, and we’re not able to take advantage of that now,” Lauren Fontein, co-owner of The Artist Tree dispensary in West Hollywood, told the Times, who said the bill is “very important” to legal retailers such as her.

But it’s still unclear if Newsom will sign the measure into law; organizations such as the American Non-Smokers Rights Foundation lobbied against the bill, CBS reported.

If Newsom does sign the bill, it’ll go into effect on New Year’s Day.

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