What’s next for the new world of weed? Cannabis consumption lounges, and public marijuana events.
Let’s get the 411 on the current state of consumption lounge licenses: where they’re legal, and what you need to know for the future of the industry.
What is a consumption lounge?
Even though weed is legal to consume medically, or recreationally in 37 states it’s not legal to consume in public places, everywhere. Hence, the creation of cannabis consumption lounges.
But what is a consumption lounge? By definition, a social consumption lounge is a commercial space authorized for adults to legally consume marijuana products on the premises.
Beyond the obvious benefits of allowing those who prefer the buzz of marijuana or cannabis to alcohol that can be legally consumed in bars – consumption lounges have a few other unique benefits.
Experts are citing the following factors as advantages for states now considering consumption lounge licenses:
- Give access to adults to safely consume in ‘sanctioned’ spaces.
- Can reduce black market sales and consumption in unauthorized areas.
- Especially for out-of-town visitors or tourists, staying in smoke-free accommodations.
- Act as a tourist attraction for the municipality and local business additional revenue.
- Serve as a space for in-state residents and medical marijuana patients who live in federally funded housing, who cannot technically consume legally.
It’s also a plus to the local cannabis community to reduce stigmas and build personal relationships amongst the population.
Next, let’s take a more in-depth look at which states have legalized consumption lounges or have plans to.
States with consumption lounge licenses
Below is a summary of all the states who have consumption lounge licenses, or are soon planning to, and the rules and regulations to know in each:
In 2019, Alaska surprisingly became the first state to license marijuana consumption on-site at legal cannabis dispensaries. Somewhat similar to a social consumption lounge, or at the very least allowing dispensaries to explore the additional offering in their start-up plans. That means, regulatory-wise you’ll need a retail license to apply for a “special onsite use endorsement”.
Consumption lounges have been legal in California for a couple of years and are home to some of the most infamous attractions around. Like Moe Greens in San Francisco, which went through a 4-year process of becoming licensed to open.
In 2021, California regulators sought out to clear gray areas in consumption lounge laws that prohibited the selling of non-marijuana foods and drinks.
In Illinois, cannabis consumption lounges were legalized in 2020. However, legalization came with a caveat. That being, social consumption licenses can’t legally sell cannabis to its customers, only facilitate a space where it can be consumed. Due to this regulation, the lounges are now known as BYOC (Bring Your Own Cannabis).
For Michigan, regulations outline how to become licensed to sell marijuana, grow marijuana, or process marijuana, but leave out any language allowing for onsite marijuana consumption.
However, like the state’s laws for liquor licenses – consuming marijuana is left up to the local governments. If zoning and permission are granted by local municipalities, social consumption lounges can be operated.
Cannabis can even be ‘gifted’ on site thanks to Michigan’s cannabis gifting law. This law allows for small quantities of cannabis to be ‘given as a gift’ but not sold for money.
Like Alaska, New Jersey’s newly legalized cannabis commission only allows for “licensed cannabis retailers and medical dispensaries” to pursue opening what’s known as a Cannabis Consumption Area (CCA).
Regulations define a CCA as “a designated space operated by a licensed cannabis retailer or medical cannabis dispensary, for which both a state and local government endorsement has been obtained”. Meaning, extra approval will be required in addition to receiving a dispensary or retailer license for consumption to be allowed on site.
Another new legal recreational state to join the list of allowing consumption lounges, is New York. When approved in 2020, New York’s proposed legislation included the regulatory framework for ‘social consumption lounges’. With a note that local jurisdictions could ‘opt-out’ of allowing social consumption lounges if they so choose.
Las Vegas led the way with Nevada’s consumption lounge licenses. When the city itself approved consumption at a specified number of dispensaries that qualified. After much success, in April 2021 Nevada lawmakers expanded consumption lounge licenses for the rest of the state.
The new language now allows for “retail cannabis consumption lounges” and “independent cannabis consumption lounges” too.
Similar to other states, Pennsylvania’s recent recreational legalization also allows for the opening of consumption lounges. They can be independent, or owned by and attached to dispensaries but cannot actually sell cannabis themselves. Another, BYOC situation where consumers can bring their own stash to consume in the licensed lounge.
What about marijuana events?
One other alternative or option to consume, or purchase weed legally in a space that’s not a dispensary or consumption lounge is marijuana events. Marijuana event organizer licensing is prominent in recreational markets for specialized industry events. And, for niche events that can benefit from the legal consumption of cannabis – like, concerts, music festivals, etc.
Marijuana event licensing can be just as stringent as other regulatory requirements. For example, in Michigan ‘a person must be granted a marijuana event organizer license to be eligible to hold a temporary marijuana event in the state.’ Meaning, even with the event organizer license, a separate temporary marijuana event application will have to be submitted at least 90 days prior to each event you host to have ample time for approval.
In addition to Michigan, states like California, Washington, and others have specialized licensing or ‘endorsements’ to licensing that can be obtained to hold marijuana events.
So, always be sure if you’re planning on holding an event with weed, or attending one, that the proper licensing has been received and approved.
The future for cannabis consumption lounges & events
For now, many see the lack of public areas to consume a patient-right and customer-centered fight. Advocates are hoping that more states begin to see the success of legal consumption lounges and facilitate cannapreneurs ability to provide that access to those who need it.
Until then, the states you’ve learned about today will continue to create a safe haven for public cannabis consumers and social cannabis use.
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