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Earlier this month, Assemblymember Matt Haney introduced a measure to legalize the sale of nonalcoholic beverages and food at marijuana lounges and retailers in the state of California. California was the first state in the country to legalize the use of medical cannabis in 1996, following the approval of Proposition 215. Two decades later, the state legalized the recreational sale and distribution of the drug following the passage of Proposition 64.
Haney stated that while some cafes did permit the consumption of marijuana, the no-drinking and no-eating rule made them less than ideal. Under the proposed measure, called Assembly Bill 374, the consumption of alcohol would still be prohibited in cannabis cafes. If approved, the measure and its counterpart introduced in the California Senate would permit cities and localities to allow the consumption of drinks as well as food at marijuana retailers.
Haney highlighted that the state would not impose the new regulations on municipalities.
The legislation would also permit cannabis cafes to host live events and sell tickets to these performances.
The assemblymember explained that his conversations with cannabis retailers from Los Angeles to Coachella Valley all centered on business expansion to ensure survival. Haney argued that if the legal marijuana industry was to survive in the state, the current laws would need to be amended to allow businesses to grow and afford their consumers memorable experiences.
The assembly member also compared the state’s possibilities to Amsterdam, where cannabis was decriminalized decades ago. In this Dutch city, the drug is available at coffee shops, which has greatly influenced foot traffic. However, he noted, while licensed cannabis retailers would be allowed to sell coffee, operating coffee shops wouldn’t be allowed to sell cannabis.
Councilwoman Chelsea Byers of West Hollywood stated that the bill’s passage would contribute to the destigmatization and normalization of cannabis use. Byers also explained that providing entertainment and food would help reach individuals who were closed off to the use of marijuana. The councilwoman, a marijuana user, noted that the measure could also help transform retailers from pharmacy-like spaces to community spaces.
However, this is just the beginning, as more is needed to make the industry more conducive for businesses.
Robert Solomon, cochair of the UCI Center for the Study of Cannabis, stated that the biggest challenge for individuals who operate legal marijuana shops in the state was heavy taxes. The state levy on cannabis retail sales currently stands at 15%. Those hefty taxes have deeply eaten into the profit margins of cannabis companies, and these companies have had to reach out to funding sources such as REZYFi Inc. in order to keep growing.
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