Starbucks...sans coffee?
January 14, 2017 1:43 PM   Subscribe

So now that cannabis is legal in several states in the US, is there a place anywhere in the continental US where one can find an Amsterdam-style coffeeshop - i.e. coffeeshops where one can buy and smoke cannabis?

I'm not interested in illegal places.

My questions is that now that cannabis is legal in some places in the country, are there legal "coffeeshops" anywhere? Or is it just all medical marijuana shops and the like?

I suspect the answer is no, and so maybe as a secondary question...why not?
posted by Toddles to Law & Government (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This past November, Maine legalized recreational marijuana, and anecdotally there are plans already submitted to some town councils for this type of place. My undertanding was they're working through the process of figuring out what local regulations will be on them -- will they count as bars, which have restrictions on e.g. ages and how close they can be to a school, or do they make up some new category for them, etc.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:53 PM on January 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I can only speak to California-- our law, which makes marijuana legal for people over 21, doesn't kick in until 2018, so this is all hypothetical so far here. (Technically the law we passed says people over 18 can buy marijuana, but we also passed a law that no one under 21 could buy any cigarettes, burnable items, or "smoking apparatus" aka pipes, lighters, matches, so these are in conflict and people between 18-21 won't be able to buy marijuana because it is a burnable item. However this also creates a loophole: people ages 18-20 can get a doctor's rec and buy medical marijuana, but not recreational marijuana, and they can't buy anything to smoke it out of, or anything to light it with!).

The law we passes forbids the consumption of cannabis in public places and indicates that at some point the state could start licensing businesses for on-site consumption. The law doesn't include any info on what this licensing would consist of, what agency within the state would do it, what the rules would be, etc., so I suspect this could take a few years to figure out. The law we passed also maintains the right of property owners to forbid use of marijuana on their premises, so even if permits for cafes are available, the owner/landlord could block renting to such a cafe or compel existing ones to stop serving.
posted by holyrood at 1:55 PM on January 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

I think the big obstacle here is smoking in the workplace laws. It's illegal just about everywhere these days to have people smoking anywhere where people work. This is a workplace safety issue related to second hand smoke. I can't see why there's any reason to think second hand marijuana smoke would be exempt from those workplace protections.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 2:09 PM on January 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

In Colorado there are a small handful of private, members-only spaces that allow this. I've never been so I don't know if the membership is a cheap and easy formality (like it is with, for example, sex clubs in many cities) or if there's more to it. There are also several "mobile cannabis lounges" with Loopr being the most well-known.

You may be interested in the details of the social use law that recently passed in Denver, which allows for the possibility of marijuana use allowed at and near designated public spaces.
posted by rhiannonstone at 2:22 PM on January 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

For Washington & Oregon, it's a no there.
1. They're public, and consumption in public is illegal.
2. It's *smoking*, and smoking in a workplace is illegal.
posted by CrystalDave at 2:23 PM on January 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

I believe Denver recently passed ordinances that one can use pot in bars. But smoking is outdoors, and you have to bring your own. One can use non-smokable pot inside but smoking is outdoors only.

I think dispensaries are plentiful in Denver so it shouldn't be too hard to pick some up on the way out to a licensed bar. I imagine over time the kind of places you're describing will appear but it will be a few more years.
posted by RichardHenryYarbo at 2:25 PM on January 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

The workplace smoking rule is an issue but it's not necessarily a deal-breaker - most states' and cities' smoking laws allow for some kind of cigar-bar exemption for places that get X% of their revenue from tobacco and/or for "private clubs" (e.g. last I heard VFW and American Legion posts decide on a post-by-post basis whether they want to be smoking or nonsmoking); presumably something similar could be done for marijuana.

Most of the new state marijuana laws prohibit smoking in public, which would seem to prohibit the cigar-bar situation but might allow for a "members-only club" model.
posted by mskyle at 2:38 PM on January 14, 2017

How about these Hookah Lounge places? Customers are already smoking there, and I don't believe they're private clubs. Maybe you don't have them in Washington or Oregon, but we have 'em here in California. Seems to me if anywhere, that's the kind of public venue where cannabis smoking will first occur.
posted by Rash at 2:42 PM on January 14, 2017

suspect the answer is no, and so maybe as a secondary question...why not?

One of the issues that even medical marijuana establishments are running up against is that it is still illegal at the federal level. This creates substantial obstacles to people desiring to create such a business. For example, it is tough to find a bank or financial institution that will give them a bank account out of fear of being charged with money laundering.

Unless and until it is made legal at the federal level, these sorts of challenges will continue to plague otherwise legal for their state marijuana-related businesses. This can be no small obstacle.
posted by Michele in California at 3:13 PM on January 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

As it stands, Alaska is the only state that allows indoor consumption of cannabis. That might be your best bet, but they're still working on things.

Oregon, Washington and Colorado's laws are specifically written so that cannabis cafe's are illegal. Oregon originally used clean air ordinances to enforce this, but updated their laws to match Washington's and made operating any kind of cannabis cafe a felony. In Oregon and Washington (at least) you're not allowed to consume the product on premise.

Two such places existed in my (SE Portland) neighborhood, they were private clubs and largely operated under the radar. You were supposed to bring your own product; they weren't dispensaries. Ironically, once prohibition ended, they had to shutter, because of ordinances banning smoking in the workplace (which was expanded to cover private clubs, and . One of them tried to be an 'edibles only' place, but shuttered pretty quickly thereafter because of the laws being updated to include all consumption.

Oregon and Washington are actively trying to (for whatever reason) make this not happen.
posted by furnace.heart at 6:54 PM on January 14, 2017

As to why there are no legal places, it's because it's still illegal on the federal level. Here in Oakland it's not hard to find a Measure Z club or dabz place, but they're all skirting the law.

Having lived through (and at times helped livestream) the Feds – led by Melinda Haag – cracking down on Oaksterdam and Harborside Health Center under Obama's administration, it's going to be interesting to see what effect the incoming presidential administration has.
posted by Lexica at 6:56 PM on January 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

There's talk of allowing cannabis cafes in Alaska, but everything goes at a glacial pace and I don't think they've figured out the regulations yet. We've only barely gotten legal stores open (for a law that was passed in November 2014) and they're apparently all out of product.
posted by leahwrenn at 7:48 PM on January 14, 2017

How about these Hookah Lounge places? Customers are already smoking there, and I don't believe they're private clubs. Maybe you don't have them in Washington or Oregon, but we have 'em here in California

Yeah, I don't know about other states, but I can vouch for them being in Florida (we had like three separate ones in the mid sized down I grew up in), and I think I remember going to one in the Boston area. They were kind of like a coffee shop only with hookah (and also coffee and other light refreshments). I could see something similar for pot, but I don't know if it currently exists.
posted by litera scripta manet at 9:41 PM on January 14, 2017

Alaska will have much greater demand/need for smoking cafés due to tourism, especially the huge number of cruise ship tourists. If they can purchase marijuana but have no legal place to smoke, it will cause problems for everyone: tourists, the stores/growers, law enforcement, and the locals — imagine tourists sneaking around your town trying to find a “private” place to smoke in quiet residential neighborhoods a few blocks away from the busy commercial tourist districts.

Federal laws and the security on the ships themselves are such that tourists will not be able to bring marijuana aboard legally. Plus, the ships themselves often prohibit even bringing alcohol (such as Alaskan beer) back on board for their own monopolistic reasons (they want you to buy alcohol from the ship).
posted by D.C. at 1:23 AM on January 15, 2017

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