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Biden Weed Change Moves California Toward Cannabis Cafes

California lawmakers are pressing forward with plans to authorize Amsterdam-style cannabis cafes, allowing patrons to enjoy a meal, coffee, and entertainment while smoking joints, Politico reports. Gov. Gavin Newsom rejected a very similar proposal last year over public health concerns, however, the bid has newfound momentum on its side from an unlikely source: the federal government. The Biden administration has officially moved to lower decades-old restrictions on pot, starting the process of reclassifying it from the most strictly controlled Schedule 1, alongside drugs like heroin and LSD, to a Schedule 3 designation reserved for substances with low potential for abuse and easily accessible with a prescription. Industry advocates say it could help normalize operations that are still highly regulated and treated differently than most businesses. A bill from Assembly member Matt Haney, a San Francisco Democrat, easily cleared a floor vote this week and isn’t expected to face much resistance in a Senate that overwhelmingly embraced the idea last year. Advocates hope the federal change of heart will help convince Newsom to get on board.

“It gives us a lot more options and opportunities as we’re rethinking policy and rethinking our cannabis framework in California,” said Amy O’Gorman Jenkins, legislative advocate for the California Cannabis Industry Association. “Consumption lounges, and the ability to consume cannabis in a commercial space, is really part of that broader discussion about normalizing cannabis in the U.S.” California already allows cannabis consumption lounges, but those establishments are limited to serving pre-packaged food items. Public health groups opposing the bill say that narrative ignores their hard-won fight to ban smoking in restaurants statewide in 1995. Autumn J. Ogden-Smith, director of California State Legislation for the American Cancer Society, acknowledged that state law already allows consumption at lounges, which could expose employees to secondhand smoke, but argued that exposure shouldn’t be extended to kitchen staff. “People want to have some fun, enjoy themselves and not go to jail, understandably,” she said. “But the reality is when you smoke, regardless of what you’re smoking, there are carcinogens that impact your health, and they can cause cancer.”


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