California Is Thinking About Legalizing Cannabis Cafes

The proposed bill would help cannabis retailers that are struggling to make ends meet

Customers smoke marijuana at the Lowell Cafe in west hollywood
Californians may soon be able to order lunch with their pre-roll.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

California cannabis users may soon be able to grab food, non-alcoholic beverages and even a live performance at their local dispensary. A new bill proposed by Assemblyman Matt Haney, a Democrat from San Francisco, would legalize the sale of food, beverages and tickets to live performances at cannabis retailers and lounges, according to the Los Angeles Times. If passed, localities across the state would have the power to permit the consumption of food and bev, a move that could help cannabis retailers struggling with high taxes and overhead costs.

Haney proposed the bill after speaking with cannabis businesses in Los Angeles and the Coachella Valley who say expansion is necessary to sustain their operations. “They’re losing to the illegal cannabis industry, and one thing that the legal cannabis small business can offer is an experience,” Haney said. “Cannabis businesses told us that they may have to close their doors unless the laws change. The regulations that prohibit them from offering other products like food are a huge burden.” 

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Some dispensaries have found creative ways to allow food and beverage in their establishments, but those workarounds aren’t necessarily helping their bottom line. One cannabis cafe in West Hollywood, The Artist Tree, has a deal with a local restaurant so customers can order food to enjoy in their smoking lounge. And while being able to order something to eat is great for customers, that revenue is going to the restaurant, not the dispensary itself.

Even if the bill passes, allowing cannabis retailers to sell food and drink and host performances would still be a “minor” change, according to Robert Solomon, co-chair of the UC Irvine Center for the Study of Cannabis. He also noted that heavy taxation is the biggest challenge for California cannabis retailers, as the state levy is 15%.

West Hollywood Councilwoman Chelsea Byers said that letting cannabis dispensaries turn into more social spaces would also “contribute to the normalization and destigmatization” of its use. We couldn’t agree more. 

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