As the movement to legalize marijuana gains momentum across the country, it’s becoming easier and easier to legally purchase cannabis. But the problem of where it can legally be used still persists, even in legal states. That is unless you live in San Francisco: the only US city to embrace smoking lounges on a wide scale.
While other California cities have been warming up to the idea—such as West Hollywood, which has approved eight licenses—San Francisco continues to be the epicenter of Amsterdam-style marijuana lounges, which come equipped with special ventilation systems to ensure that second-hand smoke doesn’t linger in the establishment, nor does the odor of marijuana leak from the premises.
Meanwhile in Los Angeles, the city’s business development manager Jackie Rocco is pushing for smoking lounges to be treated like conventional bars and be easily accessible to residents. He says that currently there is “no safe place, no legal place, to use [cannabis].” No lounges have been licensed in LA as of yet. Many other jurisdictions are in similar states of limbo where cannabis activists have been pushing for these kinds of lounges but have gained little traction due to political opposition.
In Massachusetts approval of cannabis lounges was considered but has been put off until cannabis retail shops have been established sometime this summer. The delay was largely due to the criticisms issued by the administration of Governor Charlie Baker (R). One of their concerns being that legalizing smoking lounges would lead to more impaired driving accidents. People like Jim Borghesani, a spokesperson for the Marijuana Policy Project, rejects these claims. Borghesani says having these establishments will not change the rate of impaired driving, “Those who wish to consume cannabis are going to do so whether social sites exist or not, and are going to make driving decisions regardless of where they consume.”
Borghesani added that lounges shouldn’t be controversial given the prevalence of bars in communities across the countries. “Social sites will simply give cannabis users the same options available to alcohol users.”
For now, Borghesani and other activists will have to keep on fighting in hopes that San Francisco will become a pioneer instead of an anomaly in the cannabis industry.