In an innovative legislative move, California is on the brink of allowing the establishment of Amsterdam-style cannabis cafés. Assembly Bill (AB) 374, piloted by Assembly member Matt Haney (D-San Francisco), has garnered approval from both legislative chambers and is poised to be enacted with the governor’s sign-off.
The Bill: A Conduit for Social Cannabis Consumption
AB 374 opens the door for local governments to issue licenses to cannabis businesses, enabling the public to purchase and consume cannabis and other products on the premises. Modeled after the famed cafés of Amsterdam and the broader Netherlands, renowned for the provision of cannabis, beverages, food, and live music, this bill is a prospective game-changer.
An Economic and Touristic Stimulus
Haney introduced this bill with the aspiration of expanding services of the existing dispensaries and cannabis businesses and to attract more tourists to the region. He stated, “Lots of people want to enjoy legal cannabis in the company of others… There’s absolutely no good reason from an economic, health, or safety standpoint that the state should make that illegal.”
Haney’s office indicated that although consuming cannabis at a cannabis retailer is legal, the selling of other products is not. AB 374 offers an avenue to align the legality of cannabis consumption with other commercial activities, potentially catalyzing economic activity and fostering vibrant social spaces akin to those in Amsterdam.
The Journey of Legal Cannabis in California
California has been progressive in its approach to cannabis, legalizing its recreational use for adults over 21 in 2016 via the voter-approved Proposition 64. However, existing legislation permits dispensaries only as points of sale, restricting the avenues available for legal cannabis consumption.
Legal marijuana sales in California in 2020 amounted to $4 billion, contrasted by the substantial illegal sales projected to be above $8 billion the same year. The bill could potentially reel in the shadow market, providing a structured and legal alternative for cannabis consumption while enhancing state revenues.
Pending Governor Gavin Newsom’s approval, the bill will be enacted on Jan. 1, 2024, enabling the operation of such cafés exclusively in approving cities and counties. West Hollywood has already pioneered ordinances for a licensing system, with San Francisco following suit in drafting similar ordinances.
A Step Further: Psychedelic Legalization
AB 374’s progression coincides with the legislature’s approval of another groundbreaking bill, aimed at legalizing several naturally occurring psychedelics, such as “magic mushrooms”. This separate legislation, SB 58, following numerous amendments, has successfully passed through both the Assembly and the Senate. If signed by Newsom, it would legalize the possession and cultivation of limited amounts of substances like DMT, mescaline, psilocybin, and psilocin for personal use by adults 21 and older.
California’s proposed Amsterdam-style cannabis cafés and the parallel progression of psychedelic legalization legislation reflect a paradigm shift in societal and governmental perceptions of controlled substances. By bringing in regulatory structures, the state is acknowledging the potential economic, societal, and touristic benefits of controlled, legal consumption spaces. If actualized, these legislative initiatives might not only drive state revenues and tourism but also set a precedent for a more inclusive and expansive approach to substance regulation and consumption across the United States. (Source)
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