Bill to Allow Food, Live Music at CA Cannabis Lounges Advances in Senate

June 11, 2024

A California Senate panel has approved a bill to legalize cannabis cafes in the state, months after the governor vetoed a previous iteration of the proposal.

The Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee passed the legislation in a 9-2 vote on June 10, about three weeks after it cleared the full Assembly.

Assemblymember Matt Haney (D) is again sponsoring the proposal, which would allow on-site marijuana consumption at licensed businesses. They could also offer non-cannabis food and non-alcoholic drinks and host live events such as concerts if they get permission from their local government.

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) vetoed the prior version, saying that while he appreciated that the intent was to “provide cannabis retailers with increased business opportunities and an avenue to attract new customers,” he felt “concerned this bill could undermine California’s long-standing smoke-free workplace protections.”

“Protecting the health and safety of workers is paramount,” the governor said at the time. “I encourage the author to address this concern in subsequent legislation.”

Speaking to senators on June 10, Haney clarified that his bill does not legalize consumption lounges but instead would let marijuana businesses add new streams of revenue to those facilities that are already in operation.

The legislation would allow local governments to decide whether to allow cannabis cafes to operate.

“Consumption lounges currently exist throughout the state of California if authorized by the local government, and people are actively consuming cannabis at these lounges,” Haney said. “However, what is currently not allowed under existing law—completely prohibited—is the ability for cannabis retailers to diversify their business by selling food, drinks and an experience.”

“Oversaturation, high taxes and a still-thriving black market are hurting cannabis businesses who follow the rules.”

Changes to the bill from the version vetoed by the governor would create a “separation,” he said, between public consumption spaces and back rooms of businesses where food is prepared or stored in order to better protect the health of workers.

The legislation would also allow local governments to decide whether to allow cannabis cafes to operate instead of automatically legalizing them statewide.

The bill makes explicitly clear that hemp-based food items or drinks are not considered “non-cannabis” products that could be sold at the cafes. It also says that non-cannabis items “shall be stored and displayed separately and distinctly from all cannabis and cannabis products present on the premises.”

The legislation would also allow live musical or other performances on the premises of a cannabis retailer in areas where on-site consumption is allowed.

There have been examples of California businesses that have found workarounds to permit on-site consumption while making food available to guests—but they’ve operated in a grey area, partnering with separately licensed restaurants that receive the profits.

 


 

Image via Oregon Liquor & Cannabis Commission

This story was originally published by Marijuana Moment, which tracks the politics and policy of cannabis and drugs. Follow Marijuana Moment on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for its newsletter.

Tom Angell

Tom is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 20-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

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