Should Sacramento introduce cannabis consumption lounges? The city wants to hear from you

May 2, 2023 · Sacramento Bee

Nearly 40 storefront dispensaries operate in Sacramento, but — until now — customers have nowhere to legally consume cannabis except for their homes. At the moment, people who consume cannabis in public areas of Sacramento could face a minimum $100 fine. But, the city’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) is considering a plan to introduce consumption lounges in the capital region. If this change takes place, Sacramento’s consumption policy would be akin to other cities in the state such as Los Angeles and the Bay Area. City officials have held a series of public meetings to field different opinions and ideas on whether the city should adopt a public consumption policy.

“I pushed to put this on the agenda for us to consider. I think consumption lounges can offer a safe alternative for people to use cannabis,” said Sacramento City Councilmember Katie Valenzuela. In addition to seeking the opinions of those who attend public meetings, the city has also posted an online survey where people can offer input on where lounges should be located, what type of consumption should be allowed, who should run the lounges, and more. The results from the survey, as well as information gathered from the public meetings, will be put together in a report that is expected to be submitted to the city’s Law and Legislation Committee in June.

“There is still a lot to discuss. We’ve heard from other jurisdictions in California who have these lounges. (We) are now hearing from local stakeholders. In the end, we need to discuss what it would look like here in Sacramento if it were to be successful,” said Valenzuela. ARGUMENTS FOR ALLOWING CANNABIS LOUNGES The ability to operate cannabis lounges could prove beneficial for those operating cannabis businesses in Sacramento. “I’ve heard from many cannabis operators, particularly our equity participants, that this sort of activity could really help them achieve economic stability in the long term,” Valenzuela said. Maisha Bahati is optimistic that the lounge experience will come to Sacramento. She was one of the many individuals, some cannabis business owners like her, that attended a public meeting on April 24.

“We’re the capital of California you have a lot of people flying in and out for business. You can’t smoke in hotels, can’t smoke in your rental car. You can’t smoke outside in public, can’t smoke at the park. So where are you going to go? I think opening up on site lounges will allow for that social consumption,” said Bahati. Bahati, a member of Sacramento’s Cannabis Opportunity Reinvestment and Equity (CORE) program, currently runs a cannabis delivery service and plans to open a storefront in midtown later this summer. She hopes that she can add a consumption lounge to her soon-to-be dispensary and further expand her clientele.

“It is opening up a market for events and tourism and just excitement in Sacramento. There’s going to be tax dollars obviously rolling in,” Bahati said. “The talks are happening, it’s a different climate too. Like the sun is out, (the Kings were) in the playoffs, you have all these people coming to Sacramento and small businesses are making money. At the same time, you gotta have something for people to do.” Other individuals working in the cannabis industry are supportive of the change but are skeptical that the city will see it through. John Long owns a storefront that sells CBD in Sacramento. He said adding a consumption lounge to his site would allow him to change his licensing on a storefront and expand his offerings. He hopes this would help his business flourish. However, he’s not convinced that the city wants this to happen.

“They don’t ever provide any confidence for us to tell you the truth,” Long said during a phone interview with The Bee. “They just kind of sweep us along. It’s like they’ll hype us up with a meeting and say like, ‘hey, we’re gonna do this’ and then it’s just disappointment. Then it feels like a waste of our time just to even show up.” Valenzuela, who is also chairperson of the city’s Law and Legislation, said she doesn’t blame anyone for having doubts that the city will move forward on it. “This is definitely a new big move so I don’t blame anybody for wondering if this will move forward,” Valenzuela said. “I will say that I do believe that there’s strong interest from my staff and colleagues in exploring this concept. This could be a real game changer, so I definitely understand why someone would be nervous that we wouldn’t take it forward.”

Valenzuela also said she doesn’t want anybody to assume this will happen next month, but remains confident they will figure out what works for best for everybody. Malaki Seku Amen is the Executive Director of the California Urban Partnership, a Sacramento-based organization that strives to achieve economic opportunity for communities of color. As an advocate for the California Cannabis Equity Alliance, Seku Amen feels that having allocated places to use cannabis is a good direction for Sacramento. He wants the city to continue to be innovative.

“I’m absolutely supportive of consumption lounges coming to Sacramento,” Seku Amen said. “We really need to create friendly destinations for cannabis culture in the city of Sacramento and that means to in a way that respects many of the public health concerns.” Seku Amen thinks that consumption spaces should not be limited to indoor facilities, but rather extended to include outdoor spaces where the particulate matter dissipates quicker. “Sacramento is very much an outdoors, ‘farm-to-fork’ type of city. We love the outdoors here in Sacramento, so it doesn’t make sense that we don’t have a place for consumers to safely consume this product (outside), whether it’s flower or edibles,” said Seku Amen. (Full Story)

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