Cannabis is legal for medical patients in 29 states and all of Canada. It’s legal for all adults in eight of those states and in Washington, DC. But in most of those places, smoking, vaping, dabbing and even eating cannabis are illegal anywhere except private locations with the property owner’s permission.
Whether your product is medical or recreational, most Americans who seek to consume simply can’t, legally, from Washington state to Washington, DC.
Fortunately, some on-site consumption establishments have figured out ways to serve their customers without anyone serving time. Some are modest and homey, almost like stoner rumpus rooms. Others are sexier and closer to the Amsterdam ideal. Some are mobile. Others are arty. One might resemble a downscale dot-com.
Here’s a brief guide to public consumption options and the state of legal affairs in selected medical and adult-use jurisdictions.
In early February, the state’s Alcohol & Marijuana Control Board rejected a proposal that would have made the state the first state in the nation to allow adults to consume recreational cannabis in retail shops that sell cannabis.
Board staff cast a haze over the decision the next day, highlighting an existing regulation that was not brought up before the board voted 3-2. The staff clarification noted that retail stores can offer onsite use in designated areas with prior board approval. Board officials are now reviewing applications.
Without legal venues in which to consume cannabis, the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association’s chief lobbyist predicted pandemonium could hit this summer when retail shops open and cruise-ship passengers arrive.
Public consumption: Possible.
Under Prop. 64, California’s adult use law that will take full effect in 2018, consumption in retail stores and stand-alone cafes is up to local governments — as long as it’s limited to adults 21 and over, isn’t visible to the general public, and doesn’t occur in a venue licensed to serve alcohol.
Reflecting its progressive city-state nature, San Francisco already allows consumption in medical cannabis dispensaries. San Francisco’s dispensary lounges range from posh and private (Harvest) to sleek and stylish (SPARC and Bloom Room) to steampunk sexy (Urban Pharm) to come-as-you-are comfy (Igzactly 420 and Lounge 8four7), each allowing varying forms of consumption from vape-and-or-dab-only to smoke ‘em if you got ‘em. Some lounges host event nights that offer safe, private consumption. SPARC hosts game nights and a live jazz series. Lounge8four7 offers wine pairing nights and 420 education seminars.
In San Francisco, the Cannaisseur Series pairs cannabis with $150 pop-up dinners and brunch, and Ganja Yoga offers smoke-vape-edibles-friendly stretch seshes. Denver-grown Puff, Pass and Paint combines private art classes and cannabis consumption in San Francisco and Oakland.
In Los Angeles, cannabis entrepreneur Brian Wilson’s Wake and Bake Breakfast Club offers free Wi-Fi, cable TV, pour-over craft coffee, and a welcoming place to consume. Day-use memberships are $10, monthly passes are $50, and annual passes go for $420.
California medical cannabis recommendations are required for all dispensary lounges and private events. It’s legal to smoke medical cannabis in California anywhere cigarette smoking is allowed — including the steps of the state Capitol.
Colorado’s Amendment 64 allows adults to both purchase and consume cannabis but it does not allow cannabis to be sold and consumed on the same premises.
Denver has begun discussing how to license cannabis social clubs under a citywide initiative approved by voters in November 2016. Under Denver’s new law, allowable consumption methods — smoking, vaping or noshing — vary. There’s a prohibition on venues licensed to serve alcohol. And any consumption location — art gallery, yoga studio, or pot-friendly laundromats — would require local community approval.
A few “private clubs” currently offer places to smoke, vape and dab. Most allow entrance in exchange for either monthly memberships or a single-entry fee. iBake, seven miles from downtown Denver (just across the county line) has the anything-goes ambience of a ramshackle stoner rumpus room. Closer to Denver, just south of the city, Studio 420 is a members-only space for all BYO forms of consumption. No form of cannabis is sold at either sesh spot, just a lot of convenience-store snacks and stoner-culture tools and trinkets. Both charge $10 membership fees, good for 30 consecutive days.
Looking for Club Ned, the state’s first members-only social club, located 30 minutes outside Boulder in Nederland? Both Google search and Club Ned’s web page say Ned’s dead.
Mobile consumption lounges are very much alive, though. The CannaBUS parks at various locations in Boulder and Denver for stationary, bring-your-own smoke seshes featuring on-board comedy, music and films. In Denver, Loopr’s tricked-out roaming bus offers hop-on, hop-off service and on-board dab rigs by day-pass or monthly membership.
For the artistically minded, Denver-based Puff, Pass and Paint offers private art classes that double as smoke seshes.
In Colorado Springs, last month marked the reopening of Studio A64, the state’s only cannabis club that combines cannabis acquisition and consumption. The loophole may be Studio 64’s so-called reimbursement program, which lets members acquire small amounts of the recreational drug and somehow not commit a sales transaction and use it without leaving the premises and somehow not violating Amendment 64.
Maine’s adult use law, approved by voters in November, includes a provision allowing social clubs that would sell cannabis to be consumed on the premises. Regulations are currently being drafted. The state has about a year to adopt and implement its regulations. No clubs can open before the regs are in place.
Public consumption: City-by-city, coming mid-2018.
Voter-approved legalization permits onsite consumption only if the municipality in which the retail store is located holds a full referendum to allow it. Retail cannabis stores aren’t expected to be licensed and open for business in Massachusetts until mid-2018.
Public consumption: Extremely limited, possibly coming soon.
Cannabis could be allowed in the state’, clubs, outdoor events, massage parlors and even an entire area of downtown Las Vegas, under legislation proposed recently by a lawmaker who has a cannabis strain named in his honor. Sen. Tick Segerblom, a Las Vegas Democrat, said, “We’re going to be advertising around the world ‘Come to Nevada to use legal pot.’ We can’t invite them to come here then tell them they can’t use it.” In the meantime, Puff, Pass and Paint offers private art-and-smoke seshes and cannabis-infused magic lessons in Las Vegas.
The few cannabis-friendly cafes in the state closed last year following a 2015 ban on use of inhalants — which includes “a cannabinoid or any other substance that’s inhaled into a person’s respiratory system” — in public spaces. Currently, a bill in the state legislature seeks to exempt cannabis lounges from onerous provisions of the Oregon Indoor Clean Air Act and to grant temporary licenses for pot events. Along with onsite cannabis sales, prohibitions would include alcohol, tobacco, gambling and video lottery. Puff, Pass and Paint offers private art-and-smoke seshes in Portland.
The state bans cannabis lounges and consumption at retail stores. The Washington CannaBusiness Association, a leading industry lobbying group, has made legal lounges a legislative priority this year.
The lone non-private-residence consumption option is a rolling pot-party bus, The CannaBus, a private charter operated by a local tourism company.
Public consumption: Extremely limited.
There are no retail cannabis stores in the District of Columbia. Pot advocates argued there was room in the district’s 2015 legalization initiative to allow consumption at private clubs. But Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser opposed the idea, and the D.C. Council narrowly voted to ban pot clubs last year. Puff, Pass and Paint offers private art-and-smoke seshes here.
Public consumption: Available in some larger cities.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government plans to propose a national cannabis legalization framework in Parliament this spring. Meantime, there’s a small-but-thriving cannabis vapor-lounge scene for medical cannabis users in Toronto, including Hot Box, Vapor Central, and Planet Paradise. In Vancouver, activist Marc Emery’s Cannabis Culture Lounge and the nearby New Amsterdam Cafe have provided vaping and smoking locations, respectively, for more than a decade.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Ed Murrieta is a veteran lifestyle journalist and multimedia producer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, The Cannabist, Wired.com, Leafly, and broadcast on the syndicated public radio show The Splendid Table.