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On tap in CA: Cannabis cafes with food and drink?

By Lee Cleveland - June 4, 2023

California, known for its progressive stance on cannabis, is taking a step further by considering a bill that could allow cannabis cafes to offer food and non-alcoholic drinks alongside legal marijuana.

The bill, which recently passed the state assembly with bipartisan support, grants localities the authority to approve the sale of edibles and beverages within licensed cannabis dispensaries.

Under the current state law, recreational marijuana dispensaries are prohibited from serving any food or drink.

Assemblyman Matt Haney, the bill’s proponent, argues that these regulations are outdated and nonsensical, causing licensed cannabis shops to miss out on potential revenue opportunities. He explains that shop owners themselves proposed the idea, seeking to diversify their businesses and meet the demands of customers. According to Haney, illegal sellers have exploited this gap in regulations by offering food and drink in their establishments, giving them an advantage over legal dispensaries.

The bill, now heading to the state senate for approval, not only allows for the sale of edibles and beverages but also permits live music to be performed inside cannabis dispensaries. Haney references a West Hollywood cannabis shop that used to sell its own food but was compelled to stop due to regulatory violations. The shop was required to source the food from another establishment, hindering its ability to offer a complete experience to customers.

It is worth noting that existing California cafes and restaurants will not be able to incorporate cannabis into their establishments under the proposed bill. Furthermore, Haney emphasizes that age restrictions will still apply, with customers under the age of 21 prohibited from entering the dispensaries, even if food and drink are served.

Haney assures skeptics that the bill does not pave the way for entire streets filled with cannabis cafes, as California law prohibits the clustering of multiple cannabis shops in close proximity. He dismisses concerns of an “Amsterdam-like” scenario, clarifying that these establishments will not be concentrated in a single area or near schools.

While municipalities have the option to decline the implementation of food and drink rules in cannabis dispensaries, some cities, including San Francisco, have already passed ordinances in anticipation of the bill becoming law.

The overwhelming support for the bill in the assembly, with a vote of 64-9, demonstrates the growing acceptance and recognition of the importance of the cannabis industry in California. Haney highlights that even individuals who initially opposed the legalization of marijuana voted in favor of the bill, acknowledging the significant impact the cannabis industry has had on the state’s economy.

As the bill progresses through the legislative process, it signifies California’s continued commitment to evolving cannabis regulations and exploring innovative ways to accommodate consumer demands while ensuring responsible implementation.


Tags: cannabis