Legislation that would allow for “Amsterdam-style” cannabis cafés was sent to California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk earlier this month, and it could be approved any minute.
Recreational marijuana is already legal in the state. What this law would do is allow businesses to sell food and drink that actually doesn’t contain marijuana or alcohol where cannabis can also be consumed. It would also allow for live performances at these locations.
Assemblymember Matt Haney (D-San Francisco) introduced the bill, AB 374, in April. He described the concept as “Amsterdam-style cannabis cafés, referencing the decades-long “coffeshop” tradition in the Netherlands.
“The misleading local meaning of the English word ‘coffeeshop’ arose in the early 1970s, when several actual coffee shops in Amsterdam hosted a thriving, semi-secret drug trade,” explained Rick Steves of the Amsterdam tradition. “These days you can still get tea, coffee (of varying quality), and snacks at Dutch ‘coffeeshops,’ but it’s widely understood that cannabis is the core of their sales.”
Another example closer to the U.S. is Canada’s New Amsterdam Café, which has been operating in Vancouver, British Columbia, since 1998.
“Lots of people want to enjoy legal cannabis in the company of others,” said Haney. “And many people want to do that while sipping coffee, eating a scone, or listening to music. There’s absolutely no good reason from an economic, health or safety standpoint that the state should make that illegal.
If an authorized cannabis retail store wants to also sell a cup of coffee and a sandwich, we should allow cities to make that possible and stop holding back these small businesses.”
According to CBS News, high taxes and a lack of banking options have taken a toll on California’s cannabis industry, as well as “thriving” black market sales. Haney said that he hopes the new legislation would help struggling businesses diversify and bring in tourist dollars to “empty downtowns.”
Although the bill passed with widespread support, there has been some opposition. In an August news release, the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation said that the bill “threatens to roll back smokefree workplace protections for workers at marijuana/cannabis businesses.”
If Newsom does sign the bill, it will go into law next year.