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Cannabis Lounges May be on the Horizon for San Diego

teens smoking cannabis in smoke filled room

San Diego is now considering the possibility of allowing businesses to open cannabis lounges. Customers would be allowed to eat, drink, and smoke on site. The city plans to look to San Francisco and other cities where this is already happening. San Francisco is among the first to allow on-site smoking permits to businesses.

San Diego’s City Council Economic Development Committee recently stated that they were “open” to the proposal of joining the trend of allowing on-site smoking permits. However, first, they want to gather more information. More specifically, they would like to take a look at the regulations already in place in cities like San Francisco.

In 2016, the voters of Californians legalized recreational cannabis. That said, smoking it in public remains forbidden. While those who partake in the herb, as well as industry leaders, tend to see smoking and eating cannabis as a social affair and believe it should be allowed in public places.

Some, however, claim that cannabis is a harmful drug, causing crime and impaired driving. And these are the criticisms that those who are proponents of public cannabis lounges are faced with.

San Francisco is the biggest example of how cannabis lounges in California could function. Oakland, West Hollywood, Eureka, and Palm Springs are a few more examples while plenty of other cities are currently considering it aside from San Diego. San Francisco currently has ten cannabis lounges open.

The lounges are quite enticing, including amenities such as TV, coffee, specialty nights, and cannabis paraphernalia such as bongs for rent. For example, the Barbary Coast Dispensary lounge is the most well-known. It has a lovely theme reminiscent of the speakeasies from days gone by; wood paneling, flocked wallpaper, beautiful leather booths and more.

Another notable cannabis lounge is the Urban Pharm, which has a steampunk atmosphere. Also, Moe Green’s new place as has the interior of a Vegas casino from the mid-1900s with green leather booths. More or less, the place is done up in tribute to the fictional mobster Moe Greene, the creation of Mario Puzo’s legendary Godfather series.

“Opening a cannabis dispensary now is all about creating an experience,” Nate Haas, the co-owner of Moe Greens said.

All that said, these lounges are lacking one element of the speakeasies and casinos of last century that they so vividly mimic: alcohol. It is strictly forbidden to serve, or consume alcohol at the establishments.

For San Francisco, having a long-standing history of public pot smoking (even before the days of legal cannabis), and legal medical smoke lounges for nearly a decade, the transition to recreational cannabis lounges wasn’t much of a leap at all.

That said, the process was not without conflict. Such as with the Coachella Valley Green Dragon who had a dispute with a neighboring business who has leased a part of the same building for over two decades. This establishment was the first business to receive a permit in Palm Springs.

The owner of the other business stated he would move his business versus “subjecting his clients and patients to that kind of indoor pollution.”

Having some of the most hardcore anti-smoking laws in the state, second-hand smoke is a major concern to citizens, business owners, and lawmakers alike.

With that in mind, lounges in San Francisco must have exhaust which runs directly outdoors via a filtration system. Also, smoke may not enter into other portions of the businesses premises (outside of the smoking rooms). The rooms must also be sealed by partitions with no exceptions other than doors. That said, the doors to these rooms must also have a gasket-type seal to prevent smoke leaking out. They also may not have windows which allow people outside to see inside the smoking room.

“There has and continues to be significant creep in what should be public health and safety policies in San Diego related to a commercial pot industry. As awareness of the harms of marijuana use expands, ironically, advocacy by some politicians for expanding the drug dealing, access and use are also expanding.” leader of the anti-marijuana group, San Diegans for Safe Neighborhoods, Scott Chipman, said in an email to the Union-Tribune.

As obvious the difference between San Francisco and San Diego may be, San Diego is seen as the current cannabis industry leader in the region (as far as dispensaries, cultivating, and testing goes).

If this fact is any indicator, it suggests that San Diego may well include cannabis lounges in its near future. Furthermore, with many cities banning cannabis, more and more are moving to allow them.

That said, San Diego officials are rapidly moving towards furthering access to legal cannabis since 2016. They reason that it helps defeat the black market, increases city and state revenue, helps local business owners, and most of all is a great benefit to the citizens.

From all appearances, it is nothing more than a matter of time before San Diego begins to allow cannabis lounges to pop up in their city.

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