A California bill to legalize marijuana cafes—allowing dispensaries to offer non-cannabis food and drinks at their location if they receive local approval—is officially heading to the governor’s desk.
Days after the Senate passed a slightly amended version of the legislation from Assemblymember Matt Haney (D), the Assembly concurred with the opposite chamber’s changes on Monday in a 48-7 vote. It now goes to Gov. Gavin Newsom (D).
AB 374 would allow local governments to authorize cannabis consumption lounges to prepare and sell non-cannabis foods and soft drinks at their facilities. The sale of alcoholic beverages at the cannabis cafes would continue to be prohibited, as would smoking tobacco.
The legislation 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 the bill limits 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.
The bill was revised along the process to make 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 now says that non-cannabis items “shall be stored and displayed separately and distinctly from all cannabis and cannabis products present on the premises.”
Our Cannabis Cafe bill–allowing local governments to permit legal licensed cannabis retailers to sell non cannabis foods and drinks–is out of the legislature and on to the Governor. If he signs it, it will become law next year.
— Matt Haney (@MattHaneySF) September 11, 2023
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.
Newsom hasn’t publicly commented on the legislation, but he’s a longtime supporter of cannabis legalization.
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Meanwhile, lawmakers also sent the governor a bill last week to legalize psychedelics for adults 21 and older. His position on that issue is less clear. While he’s long criticized the drug war, he vetoed a measure last session to create a safe drug consumption pilot program in the state, raising questions about his willingness to back drug policy reforms that fall outside of the cannabis space.
The Assembly Appropriations Committee also recently approved a Senate-passed bill that is meant to bolster protections for workers who use cannabis off the job. The panel adopted technical amendments to the measure from Sen. Steven Bradford (D), however, so it will go back to the Senate for concurrence if it is approved by the full Assembly.
The bill 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.
Meanwhile, state Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) announced a new program last month aimed at curtailing the illicit market, and he also argued that the high tax rate for cannabis in the state is partly to blame for why illegal sales are continuing.
Bonta’s office has also been soliciting input from local government and cannabis industry groups as it works to finalize an opinion on the potential legal risks of authorizing interstate marijuana commerce under ongoing federal prohibition, documents obtained by Marijuana Moment show.
Photo courtesy of Martin Alonso.