Bold New State Assembly Bill Proposes Amsterdam-Style Cannabis Cafés in California

On Wednesday, in a decisive 64-9 vote, a State Assembly bill received widespread support that could signal the dawn of Amsterdam-style cannabis cafés in California. This proposed legislation, known as AB 374, aims to foster a more convivial, coffee shop-style ambiance where patrons could enjoy the calming properties of cannabis on site.

Under existing legislation, while on-site cannabis consumption is permissible in certain conditions, the sale of non-cannabis-infused products is not. This proposed bill seeks to revolutionize that scenario by permitting the sales of these items, ultimately aiming for a richer, more inviting cannabis café experience.

“Lots of people want to enjoy legal cannabis in the company of others, and many people want to do that while sipping coffee, eating a scone, or listening to music,” said State Assemblymember Matt Haney (D-San Francisco), who authored the bill. “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.”

Haney is convinced that this bill will help California embrace its rich cannabis culture and further enable it to compete with Amsterdam—a city famous for its relaxed stance on cannabis use. Amsterdam, with a population of approximately 1.4 million people, is home to over 700 cannabis-friendly cafés, which collectively generate an estimated $1 billion in annual revenue.

By transforming the current “pharmacy-like” cannabis business model, where customers quickly pick up their supplies and leave, into a more socially vibrant one, Haney believes that AB 374 would revitalize the struggling cannabis industry. It could provide businesses with greater diversification opportunities and boost tourism in downtown areas and other business districts across the state currently facing economic hardship.

“California’s small cannabis businesses are struggling,” Haney acknowledged. “Issues like over-saturation, high taxes, and the thriving black market are hurting cannabis businesses who follow the rules and pay taxes.”

Groups within the nightlife industry also eagerly anticipate the potential benefits of the bill. The California Nightlife Association, in a statement of support to legislators, expressed their optimism. “Allowing cannabis lounges the commonsense option to sell food and beverage that isn’t ‘prepackaged’ and giving them flexibility to provide entertainment will give a much-needed lifeline to legal cannabis retailers who are struggling mightily to survive in the industry,” they stated. “Additionally, this bill will give our communities new, exciting opportunities to offer arts and entertainment in spaces where it was previously impossible to do so economically.”

If passed, this landmark legislation could change the face of California’s cannabis industry, pushing it towards a more inclusive, sociable, and economically robust future. While the road to enactment may still be long and fraught with legislative hurdles, the widespread support for AB 374 indicates that change is not only possible but embraced.

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