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California Assembly Committee Approves Bill To Legalize Marijuana Cafes That Already Passed Senate



A California Assembly committee has approved a Senate-passed bill to legalize marijuana cafes, allowing dispensaires to offer non-cannabis food and drinks at their location if they receive local approval.

About a month after the legislation from Sen. Ben Allen (D) cleared the Senate, the Assembly Business and Professions Committee advanced it on Tuesday in a 15-2 vote. The measure now heads to the Governmental Organization Committee before potentially moving to the floor.

The bill is largely consistent with a separate proposal to authorize cannabis cafes that passed on the Assembly floor late last month.

Under the proposal, retailers and microbusinesses that receive authorization from local governments would be able to allow adults 21 and older to smoke, vaporize and ingest cannabis products on their premises, where visitors could also prepare and sell “noncannabis food or beverage products.”

Social use sites would need to restrict access to those under 21, keep cannabis consumption out of public view and prohibit the use of alcohol and tobacco in order to obtain local approval.

Localities could also “allow for the sale of prepackaged, noncannabis-infused, nonalcoholic food and beverages” at licensed retailers if those condition are met.

One key difference between the Senate bill and the legislation that passed out of the Assembly last month is that the latter measure would further explicitly authorize “live musical or other performances on the premises of a retailer or microbusiness licensed under this division in the area where the consumption of cannabis is allowed, and the sale of tickets for those performances.”

Retailers and microbusinesses would be permitted to offer freshly prepared food and drinks, but both bills limit the sale of prepackaged food to retailers, which is consistent with regulations that the state’s Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) adopted late last year.

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.

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The vote in the Assembly committee took place on the same day that regulators in neighboring Nevada approved the state’s first conditional licenses for marijuana consumption lounges—bringing three operators one step closer to opening the cannabis social use spaces for adults.

Back in California, the Senate has also approved a bill that would prohibit employers from asking job applicants about prior marijuana use. It would build on existing employment protections enacted last session that bar employers from penalizing most workers for using cannabis in compliance with state law off the job.

A Senate-passed bill to legalize the possession of certain psychedelics and facilitated use of the substances is up against a “challenging road” toward passage in the Assembly, the sponsor said last week.

Also, state marijuana regulators announced on Tuesday that they have awarded $4.1 million to cities and counties across the state to support local cannabis business licensing programs working to address unmet consumer demand and help curb the illicit market.

The California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) separately announced last month that the state has awarded more than $50 million in marijuana tax-funded community reinvestment grants.

DCC also recently awarded nearly $20 million in research grants, funded by marijuana tax revenue, to 16 academic institutions to carry out studies into cannabis—including novel cannabinoids like delta-8 THC and the genetics of “legacy” strains from the state.

California is additionally making moves to expand its marijuana market beyond the state’s borders, with regulators recently seeking a formal opinion from the state attorney general’s office on whether allowing interstate marijuana commerce would put the state at “significant risk” of federal enforcement action.

The request for guidance from DCC is a key step that could eventually trigger a law that the governor signed last year, empowering him to enter into agreements with other legal states to import and export marijuana products.

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