The State of Alaska is moving forward with allowing cannabis cafes. Alaska’s Marijuana Control Board has proposed draft regulations that would allow on-site consumption of marijuana at licensed retail stores. The question is why is this not happening in Washington State?
Washington’s indoor smoking ban precludes virtually all smoking lounges. State statute prohibits smoking in all public places as well as any place of employment in Washington State. Smoking is also prohibited within twenty-five feet of public buildings and places of employment. Thus, unless the legislature amends this statute there will not be any cannabis smoking lounges in Washington State.
The state legislature, however, could allow for the consumption of marijuana edibles or other smoke-less products in public venues. Alaska’s draft rules allow customers to purchase marijuana at a retail store and then consume the product within a designated area of that store. Marijuana cafes in Alaska would also be able to serve food and non-alcoholic beverages. Washington could and should create similar rules.
Currently, anyone over the age of twenty-one can purchase marijuana at a retail store in Washington State. But, the only place the marijuana can be consumed is within a private residence. For out of town visitors, this means that they are very limited in their ability to legally consume the marijuana that was purchased in a state licensed retail store.
Cannabis cafes would allow for visitors to legally enjoy marijuana in a licensed public space. It would also allow the opportunity for in-state residents to gather and enjoy a legal product in a social atmosphere. The economic advantages to both the licensed retailer and the state in terms of tax revenues are obvious.
Hopefully, as marijuana is destigmatized and purchasing marijuana in a licensed retail store becomes the norm, the legislature will see the wisdom of allowing public consumption in a licensed venue. Anyone over 21 can now purchase marijuana in Washington State, now we just need a public space to enjoy it.
For more information on the regulation of marijuana businesses, please contact Heather Wolf.