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Food, drink, pot under one roof: California state bill could allow for cannabis cafes

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(CALIFORNIA) — California cannabis users may soon not have to travel far to get a cup of coffee to go with their legal pot.

The state’s assembly passed a bill Wednesday that would allow California’s localities the right to approve the sale of food and non-alcoholic drinks inside legal cannabis dispensaries. Current state law prohibits any food or beverage from being served in recreational marijuana dispensaries.

State Assemblyman Matt Haney, who introduced the bill, told ABC News that those current regulations are “outdated and nonsensical,” and as a result, a lot of legal cannabis shops are losing out on revenue.

“There is a huge demand for this. This idea came from shop owners. They wanted to diversify their businesses,” he said.

The bill, which now heads to the state senate for approval, would also allow dispensaries to have live music inside their establishment.

Haney said that even though legalized cannabis stores have been popular ever since the first legal sales began in 2018, however, those business owners are still competing with illegal marijuana sales.

Those illegal sellers have been able to get past the regulations and offer food, he said.

“The advantage the illegal market has is it can sell that experience, similar to what you can do in a neighborhood bar,” Haney said.

The assemblyman cited a West Hollywood cannabis shop that originally sold its own food but was forced to stop that by local regulators for violating the current rules.

“They were required to have the food made, sold and delivered from another establishment,” he said.

Under California law, if food and drink are to be allowed in cannabis shops, it would have to be consumed indoors in a well-ventilated room.

Current California cafes and restaurants won’t be able to offer cannabis in their establishments, according to the bill.

Haney emphasized that customers under 21 will still be barred from entering the dispensaries even if food and drink are allowed.

Haney said that concerns about whole streets being lined with these pot cafes are not strong as California’s law doesn’t permit multiple cannabis shops to be located close to each other.

“It will look nothing like Amsterdam,” he said. “So you won’t have an entire block of them and they won’t be near schools.”

Haney said municipalities could decline to allow for the food and drink rules in the dispensaries, however, some cities, including San Francisco, have already passed ordinances to permit them if the bill becomes a law.

Haney said he was impressed with the 64-9 vote in the Assembly and the bi-partisan support for the proposal.

“A lot of people who didn’t initially support legalized marijuana voted in favor of the bill,” he noted. “It just goes to show how crucial the cannabis industry has been for the state.”

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