California Lawmaker Revives Bill To Legalize Marijuana Cafes Months After Governor’s Veto

January 10, 2024 · Marijuana Moment

A California lawmaker is renewing his push to legalize cannabis cafes in the state, with a newly introduced bill and plans to work with the governor and regulators to address concerns that resulted in the last version being vetoed.

Assemblymember Matt Haney (D) is again sponsoring the proposal, which would allow on-site marijuana consumption at licensed businesses, which could also offer non-cannabis food and drinks and host live events such as concerts if they get permission from the local government.

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) vetoed the prior version, saying that while he appreciated that the intent was to “provide cannabis retailers with increased business opportunities and an avenue to attract new customers,” he felt “concerned this bill could undermine California’s long-standing smoke-free workplace protections.”

“Protecting the health and safety of workers is paramount,” the governor said at the time. “I encourage the author to address this concern in subsequent legislation.”

Accordingly, Haney says he’ll be exploring ways to resolve those concerns in collaboration with the governor’s office and the state Department of Cannabis Control (DCC).

As filed last week, however, it seems the basic provisions of the bill were kept the same as those discussions continue. The sponsor told The San Francisco Standard that the legislation will be amended to address the governor’s concerns “in the coming months.”

Newsom’s office “let me know they believe there is a path forward,” the lawmaker said. “We are in conversation with his departments about what exactly that will include.”

Haney has argued that his legislation would support the legal industry’s growth while also helping to divert people away from the illicit market.

“It’s really about fairness and supporting businesses that follow the rules,” he told KTVU FOX 2. “If we keep allowing unnecessary regulations to strangle California’s legal cannabis businesses, we’re just encouraging illegal drug sales and all of the problems that come with that.”

“To be clear, we’re not saying that coffee shops should be allowed to sell cannabis,” the lawmaker said. “We’re saying that cannabis shops should be allowed to sell coffee.”

Haney’s bill would limit the sale of prepackaged food to retailers, which is consistent with regulations that DCC adopted in 2022.

It also makes it explicitly clear that hemp-based food items or drinks are not considered “non-cannabis” products that could be sold at the cafes. It also says that non-cannabis items “shall be stored and displayed separately and distinctly from all cannabis and cannabis products present on the premises.”

The legislation would also allow live musical or other performances on the premises of a cannabis retailer in areas where on-site consumption is allowed.

“It shouldn’t be illegal for an existing cannabis business that already allows on-site smoking to move away from only selling marijuana and instead have the opportunity to grow and create jobs by offering coffee or live jazz,” Haney said.

There have been examples of California businesses that have found workarounds to permit on-site consumption while making food available to guests—but they’ve operated in a grey area, partnering with separately licensed restaurants that receive the profits.

While Newsom vetoed the cannabis cafe bill, as well as separate psychedelics legalization legislation that is also being revised for 2024, he did enact a number of marijuana measures last year, including several that took effect at the beginning of the month.

For example, as of this month, California employers are now prohibited from asking job applicants about past cannabis use, and most are barred from penalizing employees over lawful use of marijuana outside of the job.

Meanwhile, a Republican California lawmaker has filed a revised bill to create a state workgroup that would be tasked with exploring a regulatory framework to provide therapeutic access to psychedelics like psilocybin and ibogaine. (Full Story)

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