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California Bill Aims to Legalize Cannabis Cafes for Social Consumption

Proposed legislation would allow cannabis lounges to serve food and coffee, inspired by Dutch coffee shops.

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California assemblymember Matt Haney (D-San Francisco) has proposed AB 374, a bill that would grant local governments the authority to license cannabis cafes, inspired by the Amsterdam-style model. These establishments would not only offer cannabis products but also provide a social experience with coffee, food, and live music.

The bill has received strong bipartisan backing, passing the California Senate last week with a 33-3 vote and gaining approval in the Assembly on Monday with a vote of 66-9.

Haney’s motivation, according to a press release, is to revitalize struggling cannabis businesses and attract tourism to underutilized downtown areas. He argues that people should have the freedom to enjoy legal cannabis in a social setting while savoring coffee, pastries, or music.

In contrast to California’s dispensary-centric approach, the Netherlands has long recognized the social nature of cannabis use. Dutch coffee shops, where patrons can consume cannabis while enjoying coffee and snacks, have become famous. Over 1.5 million tourists visit these cafes annually.

California’s cannabis businesses have faced challenges such as oversaturation, high taxes, and a thriving black market. Legal sales in 2020 reached $4 billion, while illicit market sales were projected to surpass $8 billion. AB 374 aims to allow cannabis retailers to diversify their offerings by permitting the sale of non-cannabis-infused products.

The bill emphasizes that it doesn’t advocate for coffee shops to sell cannabis but rather for cannabis retailers to offer coffee and other non-infused items, enabling these businesses to expand, prosper, and create jobs.

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