A customer buys cannabis products at a store in West Hollywood, Calif., on Jan. 2, 2018. (David McNew/Getty Images)
A week into the new legislative session, a California bill that seeks to legalize Amsterdam-style “cannabis cafes” that was shot down by the governor last year has been revived, according to its author, Assemblyman Matt Haney (D–San Francisco).
Mr. Haney took to X, formerly Twitter, to indicate last year’s bill was coming back and had previous “broad partisan support,” and only met a demise due to a veto by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Last year’s bill passed the Assembly in a 64 to 9 vote, and the Senate in a vote of 33 to 3.
Mr. Newsom said he vetoed the bill over concerns the cafes would undermine “long-standing smoke-free workplace protections” in California.
But according to Mr. Haney, he is now working with the state’s Department of Cannabis Control and Mr. Newsom’s office to ensure the new bill, Assembly Bill 1775, will protect workers while legalizing the cafes.
The legislation attempts to allow local governments to license so-called cannabis cafes where food and beverages would be sold and consumed alongside marijuana.
Mr. Haney also contended in a statement last year after his bill was vetoed that smoking cannabis is already allowed in licensed dispensaries, so the bill wouldn’t have affected the state’s smoke-free workplace laws.
“The voters of California have already decided to legalize the smoking of cannabis in public dispensaries. AB 374 just allows businesses where smoking is already happening to sell coffee and food and hold live shows,” Mr. Haney said in a social media post in October.
He also noted at the time the bill is “an attempt to level the playing field,” against the illegal black market, as legal cannabis sales face a highly regulated and taxed industry, while illegal sales surpassed $8 billion in 2022, double that of legal sales the same year, he said.
Smoking inside buildings is generally not allowed in California. But according to California code, marijuana stores are permitted to have smoking rooms, which are restricted to those 21 or older and must be out of sight from public view.
According to last year’s bill’s text, cannabis stores would have also been allowed to have live music—or other ticketed entertainment performances—alongside food, beverages, and the consumption of marijuana or marijuana-infused products.
In an interview with the San Francisco Standard, Mr. Haney told the news outlet that his office is in conversation with the governor’s office, working on a path to move the bill forward in 2024. He noted regulations in places like San Francisco require smoking in smoking lounges to be separate from other working areas such as kitchens, in addition to ventilation requirements, according to the outlet.
“[Gov. Newsom’s] office let me know they believe there is a path forward. ... We are in conversation with his departments about what exactly that will include,” he said in the San Francisco Standard story.
The proposed bill, including the new revised version, comes in recognition of the success the Netherlands has had in their decriminalization of marijuana, with Amsterdam—the capital of the country—allowing some cannabis consumption in coffee shops, or “cannabis cafes,” according to Mr. Haney’s office in an April press release
While the Netherlands decriminalized the drug in 1976, it is still illegal to carry more than five grams or to consume in public spaces outside of licensed cafes, according to media reports.
Over 1.5 million tourists now visit cannabis cafes when visiting the Netherlands, with over 700 such stores across the country making over $1 billion annually, according to Mr. Haney.