At a meeting that stretched late into the night, the Berkeley City Council voted to approve a proposal that will allow cannabis consumption in public lounges. City staff members drafted a report in support of this position, arguing that these lounges are necessary because weed consumption is prohibited in public, in most businesses, and in most apartments. “Providing a place to consume cannabis legally is important for patients who have no other options,” the report advised, according to SFBay.ca.
The Berkeley Community Health Commission opposed the decision, arguing that legal weed lounges would undermine the city's smoke-free policies by increasing potential exposure to secondhand pot smoke. The commission also raised concerns that consumers frequenting these legal lounges could choose to drive home afterwards, increasing the risk of impaired driving.
The debate largely centered around the Berkeley Patients Group (BPG), a licensed cannabis dispensary that hopes to open the city's first legal weed lounge. This business, which opened in 1999 and claims to be the country's oldest existing weed dispensary, is currently planning to move its base of operations to one of the busiest intersections in the city. At this new location, the business is hoping to create a public weed consumption lounge.
The BPG wrote a letter to its members urging them to support the city's new ordinance. The email noted that “[banning consumption lounges would] force patients to use cannabis products in public if they don’t have the right to consume in their own home,” SFBay.ca reports. The company also argued that rejecting the proposal would also “deprive patients, veterans, cancer victims, and others of a like-minded community space where they can support and promote their collective healing.”
Some members of the community argued against the proposal, voicing concerns that the BPG's new location is close to a preschool and a public library. Community members also argued that they did not receive any advance notice that a weed lounge could potentially open in their vicinity. Despite these concerns, the city council voted to approve public consumption lounges, paving the way for BPG — and other lounges anywhere in Berkeley — to open their doors to the public.
So far, most adult-use states have been loath to allow public pot lounges, but over the past year, a growing number of social consumption spaces have been approved. Last summer, Los Angeles approved the city's first legal on-site cannabis consumption restaurant, and a Moroccan-themed weed tea lounge is coming to West Hollywood later this year. Las Vegas also approved pot bars and consumption lounges last year.
Even more states have jumped on the pot-lounge bandwagon since the turn of 2020. Illinois just approved its first legal weed lounge, only weeks after adult-use sales became legal. And earlier this week, Alaska voted to allow any licensed dispensary in the state to open its own on-site cannabis consumption lounge.