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Benchmarks: Get Your Puff On, People

Cannabis smoking lounges aren’t allowed everywhere but if you can operate one, it’s best do it the right way.




ARE SMOKING LOUNGES the next big thing in our rapidly expanding world of cannabis? Probably not quite yet. Even in the United States—which is gradually approaching the half-way mark in states with legalized recreational marijuana—anti-smoking laws on the books make running an above-board, zoned indoor (or even outdoor) toking space very difficult, if not legally impossible.

Of course, cannabis itself wasn’t the on the entrepreneurial roadmap until very recently. In the weed world, things can change pretty fast. Some alcohol bar owners are already concerned about the threat of cannabis lounges, according to drinks industry publication SevenFifty Daily.

Cannabis vendors like Brandon Dorsky, CEO of Long Beach, CA-based Fruit Slabs, see lots of opportunity in on-premise consumption of edible cannabis products—even in places where smoking flower is a no-go.

“Regardless of whether or not you are a bar owner or cannabis consumer, the rise of cannabis consumption lounges and cannabis-fueled experiences will certainly change the landscape of options on your nightlife menu for the better,” Dorsky says.

Slow or fast, big thing or not, lounge experiences are already being delivered in some pretty cool ways. Here are a few notable examples of folks boldly blazing forward into the smoky land of weed lounges.

Let’s Be Careful in There

Amsterdam is arguably the ground zero of the smoking lounge. The Dutch have had hassle-free cannabis cafés for decades. And while there are plenty of places to sit and have a puff in the capital city, from scruffy to lux, Café Hill Street Blues remains a historic favorite. Open since the 1990s, this hotbox spot has the layers of grungy art to prove it. You can even bring some crayons and add your own art to the tables, walls, mirrors and windows. Alcohol, weed, music and graffiti, it’s all there.


Sweet Home Chicagoland

Green Thumb Industries (GTI) is one of the first public, multistate cannabis companies beginning to cash in on lounge spaces. The company’s RISE Lounge & Smokeasy in the Chicago suburb of Mundelein, IL opened last year and is one of the first cannabis lounges in Illinois. It’s not really a hallmark of design—GTI has opted for more function over form, though RISE’s grassy serving counter backsplash accenting row after row of glass pipes is a nice touch.

Cape of Good Smoke

Attracting everyone from Nigerian royalty to 18-year-olds trying “dagga” (weed in the local lingo) for the first time, Cape Town, South Africa- based Cannibisters Herbal Apothecary has broad appeal. Local law allows club members to grow and smoke their own personal herb on the premises. “Every item in Cannibisters is medicinally tested. Every item is organically made,” says owner Pierre Sarembock. With more than 7,000 members joining in its first eight months, this chill club with a breezy vibe is a model for what works when it comes to weed lounges.

Smokeasy Does It

One of the oldest, continuously operating legal smoking lounges in the U.S., the Barbary Coast’s Mission District location in San Francisco is another spot designed along speakeasy lines. This lounge could be a secret gin joint from the 1930s—the spell only broken by several big screen TVs. With an impressive cannabis list, as well as cocktails and music, the Barbary Coast is a must-stop destination for entrepreneurs with similar lounge notions.


Lucky G13

Spain is a lot like Holland when it comes to weed—both countries are supremely relaxed when it comes to enforcing actual laws. Barcelona’s G13 Cannabis Club takes this easy-going attitude to the max. With soft pillows, comfy sofas and plush carpets, it’s like smoking in your own living room. Add to that an impressive lineup of shatter, wax and weed, and G13 stands out in a city where there is no shortage of stand-out cannabis clubs.

Skunk and
The City

New York City’s members-only Astor Club calls itself “the highest club in high society.” This speakeasyslash-tea roomstyled lounge really was a speakeasy when it first opened in 2020—over a year before recreational cannabis was legalized in the Empire State. The vibe: Exclusive. The product: Top shelf. “We are a connoisseur’s club. Other people have their lanes. We have the very best around, period,” say its owners.

Thaddeus Flint is the Managing Editor of Global Cannabis Times. He previously worked as a journalist, investigator, and luxury boutique owner. Having lived in NYC, France and Switzerland, he now resides in an off-grid A-frame on a mountain in upstate New York.



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