California marijuana lounges could soon serve food and drink under a proposed bill being considered by the State Assembly. Assembly Bill 374, authored by San Francisco Democratic Assemblyman Matt Haney, would permit localities to allow cannabis lounges to offer food, drinks, or live entertainment.
Haney believes that his legislation could give a boost to the state’s flagging tourism industry and cannabis retailers, as many retailers struggle to compete with the illegal cannabis market. He argues that the existing prohibition against cannabis lounges serving food or drink, or hosting live music or comedy acts, is outdated and misguided.
There is a similar bill in the Senate, Senate Bill 285, by Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, but it does not cover live entertainment. Haney’s bill would allow cannabis lounges to sell coffee and other non-alcoholic beverages, and he likens them to wine bars, where people pay a premium to drink in a social environment.
If the proposed legislation passes, California could become the first state to permit cannabis lounges to offer food and drink. Cannabis lounges currently operate in the state but are only allowed to offer smoking areas, and the prohibition against food and drink has limited their appeal to customers.
Cannabis tourism is a growing industry in California, with many visitors seeking out the state’s legal marijuana markets. In 2021, California’s legal cannabis market generated more than $7.6 billion in sales, according to the California Bureau of Cannabis Control.
The proposed legislation could also benefit California’s hospitality industry, which has struggled to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Haney sees a significant opportunity in cannabis for the state’s tourism and hospitality sector, which could provide a much-needed boost to the industry.
While Haney’s bill only allows local governments to issue licenses as they see fit, it could change the perception of cannabis retail as a clinical space. Haney believes that much of the law continues to treat cannabis retailers like clinical settings, and that kind of regulatory framework will ultimately drive California’s cannabis industry into the ground.
The proposed legislation would benefit various California municipalities, including West Hollywood and San Francisco, by allowing local governments to issue licenses for food and drink services in cannabis lounges.