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Revamped Bill to Legalize Cannabis Cafes Passes California Assembly

Revamped Bill to Legalize Cannabis Cafes Passes California Assembly

Customers shop for marijuana products at a cannabis dispensary in Santa Ana, Calif., on Feb. 18, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Rudy Blalock

Rudy Blalock

5/23/2024

Updated: 5/27/2024

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The Assembly has passed a bill nearly identical to one vetoed last year that would legalize Amsterdam-style “cannabis cafes” in California.
The bill passed May 20 and now heads to the Senate with revisions intended to avoid another veto.
Authored by Assemblyman Matt Haney, a San Francisco Democrat, AB 1775 would allow local governments to legalize so-called cannabis cafes where food and beverages could be made in-house and sold and consumed alongside marijuana, instead of only the pre-packaged items allowed at present.
The bill would also let cannabis retailers host ticketed performances, such as live music. To address some of the governor’s concerns about smoking in the workplace cited in his veto last year, the revamped bill would specify that “back of the house” food preparation and storage must be in a smoke-free zone, according to an April 26 Assembly analysis of the bill.
“Lots of people want to enjoy legal cannabis in the company of others. And many people want to do that while sipping coffee, eating a scone, or listening to music,” Mr. Haney said in a May 20 press release when his bill passed out of the Assembly with a 49 to 4 vote.
Last year’s bill, AB 374, passed the Assembly with a 64 to 9 vote, and the Senate in a vote of 33 to 3.
According to Mr. Haney, the bill is “an attempt to level the playing field” against the illegal market, as legal cannabis sales face regulations and taxes while illegal sales surpassed $8 billion in 2022, double that of legal sales the same year.
In an October 2023 statement, Mr. Newsom said he vetoed the previous bill over concerns the cafes would undermine “longstanding smoke-free workplace protections” in California.
Lawmakers said in the recent Assembly analysis that Mr. Haney’s office intends to work closely with the Newsom administration to address the concerns. Current amendments include a ban on smoking where food is prepared and stored or where dishes are washed, but further changes could be added, the lawmakers said.
In his own statement last October after the veto, Mr. Haney contended that smoking cannabis is already allowed in licensed dispensaries, so the bill wouldn’t violate the state’s smoke-free workplace laws.
Voters legalized smoking cannabis in such locations in 2016 when they passed 64.
Smoking inside buildings is generally not allowed in California. But according to California code, marijuana stores are permitted to have smoking rooms, out of sight from public view and restricted to those 21 or older.
The bill comes in recognition of the success the Netherlands has had in decriminalizing marijuana, with Amsterdam—the capital—allowing some cannabis consumption in coffee shops, according to the recent press release.
While the Netherlands decriminalized the drug in 1976, it is still illegal to carry more than 5 grams or to consume in public spaces outside of licensed cafes, according to lawmakers in the same bill analysis.
Over 1.5 million tourists now visit cannabis cafes in the Netherlands, with over 700 such stores across the country making over $1 billion annually, according to Mr. Haney in past press releases.
The bill now awaits assignment from the Senate Rules Committee.
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Rudy Blalock

Rudy Blalock

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Rudy Blalock is a Southern California-based daily news reporter for The Epoch Times. Originally from Michigan, he moved to California in 2017, and the sunshine and ocean have kept him here since. In his free time, he may be found underwater scuba diving, on top of a mountain hiking or snowboarding—or at home meditating, which helps fuel his active lifestyle.

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