Cannabis May Be Legal, but Where Can You Smoke It?

Like alcohol, the public consumption of cannabis is prohibited in states that have legalized it for medical or recreational use. Unlike alcohol, the solution in most cases is not to go a bar or club, but to gather in someone’s home. This problem contradicts the message of legitimacy the act of legalization sends. While consumption and possession might be legal statewide, consumers are still forced to hide. That can be especially frustrating for tourists who have to rely on the surprisingly conservative hospitality industry for lodging.

Though these roadblocks exist, each state is different and houses cannabis advocates who are fighting to change folks’ minds. If you want a place to consume cannabis socially, the following states have options for you.

Alaska

The existence of the state’s recreational laws is largely attributable to former TV journalist Charlo Greene. She quit her job mid-segment saying, “Fuck it, I quit,” to fully devote her time to Cannabis Club. Alaska Cannabis Club is an organization where medical card members can gift and consume cannabis in the clubhouse. It brands itself as a safe space where consumers can socialize and trade information about the plant. Until October 2016, the month of the state’s first recreational sales, there was no legal way for patients to access cannabis outside of growing it themselves.  Greene’s Cannabis Club made a way, but at a high cost to the entrepreneur. Charlo Green currently faces over five decades of prison time for her involvement with Cannabis Club, which, prior to the recreational laws were passed, was allegedly operating illegally.

California

Los Angeles Skyline, recreational cannabis

Recreational sales are set to launch in January 2018 in the Golden State and analysts anticipate that the industry’s profits will be explosive. The state’s regulations give individual cities the option of permitting 21 and older retailers to allow cannabis consumption. Unfortunately, Californian counties have been slow to authorize this practice for recreational use.

Medically speaking, cannabis cafes are rare, but they exist. In San Francisco, Harvest on Geary is a medical dispensary that also allows onsite consumption in its private, upscale lounge. In Los Angeles, the private medical cannabis club, Wake and Bake offers its members a place to socially consume and the option of purchasing pre-rolled joints and a few edibles.

When it comes to recreational cafes, the city of Los Angeles is far less flexible. LA is predicted to be a money-making behemoth for the cannabis industry, but the question of cannabis cafes is highly contentious. As regulations stand, the country does not authorize the consumption of recreational cannabis anywhere but in the home, and that puts tourists in a pretty awkward position.

Colorado

Colorado is already home to Studio A64, a cannabis club where consumers can see live performances, and various recreational activities (on top of cannabis consumption). However, until 2016, the “original cannabis club’s” legality was questionable since there were no clear regulations regarding the existence of businesses allowing on-site consumption. That same year, Denver voters approved of cannabis clubs in a ballot measure, Denver voters approved of cannabis clubs in 2016allowing licensed businesses to welcome on-site consumption, as long as the customers bring their own pot. In light of this, Studio A64 has evolved. Its downstairs has become the Original Hemp Café where CBD-infused foods are sold. Upstairs, consumers can consume the THC-laden cannabis they bring from home.

Studio A64 is one of few legitimate cannabis clubs in Denver since many businesses are wary of the license’s strict requirements. Many cities within the state have polarizing views on the existence of cannabis clubs, to begin with.   Even though Colorado passed the measure allowing cannabis clubs to exist three months ago, it wasn’t until December 11 that Denver’s licensing department received its first application.

Maine

Social cannabis clubs in Maine are likely to be state regulated. However, that probably won’t happen until June 2019 when the recreational market has been running for approximately a year.  Like in all other states, public cannabis consumption is prohibited.  However, the wording of Maine’s bill doesn’t expressly forbid the consumption of cannabis in social clubs.  If the bill does end up prohibiting smoking and vaping, which seems likely, it means that guests will be permitted to purchase and consume edibles and tinctures from the same business.

Massachusetts

On December 11, the state’s legislature approved a measure authorizing the existence of businesses where patrons can both buy and consume cannabis products, though it is unclear if this will include smokeable bud. These cannabis clubs will not be permitted to sell alcohol, and their employees are mandated to receive training on how to manage patrons who are too intoxicated.

Nevada

Las Vegas is well on its way to becoming the first city to house government-regulated cannabis lounges. The ordinance proposed by Councilman Bob Coffin would require patrons to bring their own cannabis, but the clubs would be authorized to provide paraphernalia.  Some fear that this aspect of the proposal will lead to a rise in black market sales since patrons could ostensibly sell to each other. However, proponents of the ordinance are enthusiastic about the possibility that the city will provide its tourists with a safe place to consume cannabis, especially since its hospitality industry is decidedly anti-pot.

Washington state 

The only place where public cannabis consumption is legal is on a bus, the Cannabus to be precise.  On-site consumption of cannabis at retailers is strictly prohibited.

Cannabis May Be Legal, but Where Can You Smoke It? was last modified: by
Dianna Benjamin

About the author: Dianna Benjamin is a freelance writer, teacher, wife, and mom horrified and fascinated by social justice and our inability--yet constant pursuit--to get it right.