Bill reintroduced to legalize cannabis cafes in California

An elected official in San Francisco is bringing back a bill that aims to legalize cannabis cafés in the state of California.

Assemblymember Matt Haney previously introduced the bill, AB 374, that would have allowed Amsterdam-style cafés where people could consume marijuana. It passed in the state Assembly and Senate, but was vetoed by Gov. Newsom in October.

Newsom cited concerns about workers having rights to a smoke-free environment. Haney is now collaborating with the Department of Cannabis Control and Newsom's office to create a bill that allows cannabis cafés while protecting worker health. 

Currently, it's not illegal in California for customers to smoke or consume cannabis on-site in consumption lounges, but it is illegal for dispensaries to sell non-cannabis products, including food and coffee. 

Haney's office noted concerns about California's huge cannabis black market which legal cannabis providers must contend with. California's legal cannabis sales hit about $4 billion in 2020, while illegal sales in the state stretched past the $8 billion mark that same year. 

"It’s really about fairness and supporting businesses that follow the rules," said Haney, "If we keep allowing unnecessary regulations to strangle California’s legal cannabis businesses, we’re just encouraging illegal drug sales and all of the problems that come with that."

One country that has seen success with cannabis lounges is the Netherlands, which legalized cannabis cafes in the 1970s. The country managed to kill its illegal cannabis black market with the legalization, while driving tourism to the country. The Netherlands has more 700 cannabis cafés where tourists spend upwards of $1 billion each year. 

"To be clear, we’re not saying that coffee shops should be allowed to sell cannabis," said Assemblymember Matt Haney. "We’re saying that cannabis shops should be allowed to sell coffee. It shouldn’t be illegal for an existing cannabis business that already allows onsite smoking to move away from only selling marijuana and instead have the opportunity to grow and create jobs by offering coffee or live jazz."