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Bill Allowing Amsterdam-Style Cannabis Cafes Moves To California Assembly

A State Assembly bill that would allow Amsterdam-style cannabis cafes where patrons could consume the tranquilizing herb on the spot received broad partisan support on Wednesday and passed the assembly 64-9.

While on-premises cannabis consumption is permitted under certain circumstances, AB 374 would allow for the sale of non-cannabis-infused products and allow for a more engaging, cafeteria-style experience. Current law prohibits the sale of non-cannabis related products.

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA – FEBRUARY 15: California State Assembly candidate Matt Haney speaks to supporters as he takes the lead in voting during the election night party in District Six in San Francisco, California, Tuesday, February 15, 2022. (Scott Strazzan

“Many people want to enjoy legal cannabis in the company of other people, and many people want to do it while drinking coffee, eating a muffin, or listening to music,” said State Assemblyman Matt Haney (D-San Francisco), the bill. author. “There is absolutely no good economic, health, or safety reason for the state to make it illegal. If a licensed cannabis retailer also wants to sell a cup of coffee and a sandwich, we should allow cities to make it happen and stop holding back these small businesses.

Haney believes the bill will build on California’s deep roots in cannabis culture and set the state on a path to better compete with Amsterdam, a city of 1.4 million located in the Netherlands that is also known for its cannabis culture. Amsterdam currently has over 700 cafes that allow cannabis consumption on the premises, raking in approximately $1 billion a year.

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AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS – DECEMBER 10: Marijuana cigarettes inside the Coffeeshop in Red Light District on December 10, 2022 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. De Wallen, the red light district of Amsterdam, is internationally known and one of the main tourist spots

Haney hopes the bill will help move the cannabis industry from a “pharmacy-like business” where customers simply pick up their supplies at a dispensary and leave, to one that is more sociable. He also hopes the bill will allow the currently struggling cannabis industry a greater opportunity to diversify their businesses and promote tourism in downtown areas and other struggling business districts across the state.

“California’s small cannabis businesses are struggling,” Haney said. “Issues like oversaturation, high taxes and a thriving black market are hurting cannabis companies that follow the rules and pay taxes.”

Nightlife industry groups are excited about the bill’s potential.

“Allowing cannabis lounges the common sense option to sell food and beverages that are not ‘pre-packaged’ and giving them flexibility to provide entertainment will provide a much-needed lifeline for legal cannabis retailers who are fighting mightily to survive in the industry.” said the California Nightlife Association said in a statement of support to lawmakers. “In addition, this bill will provide our communities with new and exciting opportunities to offer arts and entertainment in spaces where it was previously impossible to do so economically.”

However, the bill currently faces opposition from major health-related industry groups such as the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Heart Association, and the American Lung Association.

“This bill could essentially turn a cannabis establishment into a restaurant and potentially force workers to accept exposure to toxic chemicals to keep their jobs,” the three groups said in a letter of opposition to lawmakers. “Workers shouldn’t have to choose between their health and a good job. California has fought hard to protect workers and ensure a safe, healthy, and smoke-free work environment. AB 374 will undo that by recreating harmful work environments. From the past.”

The bill now goes to the state Senate for approval.

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