Between all the excitement around sweeping legalization measures and a focus on ensuring an equitable and reparative industry, many seem to have forgotten an important element that could lead towards further social acceptance of cannabis consumption: safe spaces to consume. People have long gathered together to share in the consumption of cannabis and cities across America are littered with bars and restaurants serving alcohol, so why such slow progress for consumption lounges? Let’s explore why the slow growth and which states are including cannabis consumption lounges in their legislation.
Why So Few?
Due to the legal and regulatory hurdles, cannabis consumption lounges are far and few in between compared to dispensaries, manufacturers and other ancillary cannabis businesses. COVID-19 sure didn’t help that, either, as some had to pause legislative efforts to open consumption lounges altogether.
Currently, there are 7 US states that have legislation to allow consumption lounges, and most of them have been shut down due to COVID. Despite the hurdles for current and hopeful cannabis consumption lounge owners, states are pushing on. While California and Colorado have surely led the way in both legalizing and normalizing cannabis consumption lounges dating back to the nineties, states like New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Nevada are now moving to embrace consumption lounges. Of course, they are all doing so a little differently and will continue to until federal legalization legislation is passed.
States With Opened or Opening Cannabis Consumption Lounges
In November 2020, the state overwhelmingly approved Public Question 1, to legalize cannabis use, sales and possession for adults 21 years old or over. Per usual, however, the Garden State’s approach is complicated. In New Jersey, under CREAMMA, a division of the states yet-to-be formed cannabis commission, only “licensed cannabis retailers and medical dispensaries can even pursue legally opening a cannabis consumption area (CCA). There will be no “stand-alone” CCAs in New Jersey”, reported News12, New Jersey. A CCA is a “designated space operated by a licensed cannabis retailer or medical cannabis dispensary, for which both a state and local government “endorsement” (i.e., formal approval) has been obtained”, per current NJ regulations.
Unlike NJ, New York has reached a deal that would include stand-alone, regulated cannabis consumption lounges. The NY Times reported that these spaces would be “club-like lounges or ‘consumption sites’ where marijuana, but not alcohol, could be consumed.” With revenue said to reach nearly 6 billion by 2027, NY leaves room for others to enter the regulated cannabis space without growing or packaging the plant.
Pennsylvania courageously hosted their annual Pennsylvania Cannabis Festival but that was a single licensed event held outdoors. What about cannabis consumption lounges? Most interesting about PA is that there is only a single space that allows consumption, The After Dispensary, located in Abington, PA. This BYOC (Bring Your Own Cannabis) is open to PA residents with a valid MMJ card.
Also BYOC, the state of Illinois will also have its first licensed consumption lounge. About 300 miles from Chicago, the state’s capital, cannabis consumers can visit the newly opened, Luna Lounge, to safely consume cannabis as well as pick up general smoke shop style products.
Also in Illinois, a movie theatre owner has big plans to repurpose the property into a state-of-the-art cannabis co-op. If all goes according to plan — which, come on — it’s cannabis so likely there will be hurdles, but the former AMC theatre will be a co-operative dispensary, greenhouse and a consumption lounge.
Nevada, famous for all things scandalous, fun and progressive is surprisingly slow-moving towards legalizing cannabis lounges. This movement proceeds its most popular city, Las Vegas, creating city regulations to allow consumption at a limited number of qualified dispensaries, perhaps in hopes of pushing Nevada for a state law change, too. It may have worked since just last month social use legislation was introduced, sponsored by Speaker Pro Tempore Steve Yeager (D), to create two new licensing categories for cannabis businesses in the state. One would be for “retail cannabis consumption lounges” and the other would be an “independent cannabis consumption lounge” said the bill.
Don’t get us wrong, legal weed is great and dispensaries abound are incredible, but the fact that many still lack safe locations to consume besides their residence isn’t patient or customer-centered. Luckily some of the abovementioned cannapreneurs are committed to seeing cannabis consumption lounges flourish and providing those spaces for consumers and patients despite regulatory hurdles. For more information about changes to cannabis consumption and all things cannabis, follow along with CannaCon! And, make sure to check out one of our industry-leading conferences.