The California Assembly has approved a bill to legalize marijuana cafes in the state; the body sent the bill to Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk for his signature. Bill AB 374 would allow recreational cannabis dispensaries to provide customers with noncannabis drinks and foods as long as they receive approval from local authorities.
Senate lawmakers received the measure from assemblymembers, made slight amendments, and approved it in a 33 to 3 vote nearly one week ago before sending it back to the assembly for a concurrence vote. The assembly voted in favor of the amended cannabis cafe bill just a few days after receiving it from the Senate in a 48 to 7 vote, putting it on track to becoming a law if it receives Governor Newsom’s signature.
Assemblymember Matt Haney introduced the measure and envisioned it going through a relatively quick concurrence vote due to “strong bipartisan support.”
While lawmakers in the state recently concluded working on marijuana cafe legislation, California has a grey market populated with businesses that found legal workarounds to provide cannabis for on-site consumption while providing food for guests. If Newsom signs the measure into law, entrepreneurs with authorization from local governments will be able to prepare and sell nonmarijuana soft drinks and foods to customers at retail establishments.
Haney’s bill would legitimize the industry while prohibiting smoking tobacco and the sale of alcoholic beverages at marijuana cafes. It would also allow cannabis lounges to hold live performances of different varieties and sell tickets to these events.
Although microbusinesses and retailers would have the authority to sell freshly prepared drinks and foods, only retailers would be allowed to sell prepackaged food to customers, keeping the cannabis cafe rules in line with policies adopted by the California Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) in late 2022. Senate lawmakers amended the cannabis cafe bill to make it clear that it prohibits the sale of hemp-based foods and drinks at marijuana cafes by clarifying that it does not consider such products to be “noncannabis” products. The measure also states that cannabis cafes should store and display noncannabis items separately and distinctly from any cannabis products on site.
California legalized recreational cannabis in late 2016 and quickly built up the largest recreational marijuana market in the world. Cannabis retailers in the state generate billions of dollars in revenue every year, and even though marijuana sales declined last year, California‘s cannabis market had a $2.2 billion valuation in 2022.
The regulatory change allowing cannabis cafes to operate in California is likely to be copied in other jurisdictions where marijuana is legal for adult use. As a result, companies such as Curaleaf Holdings Inc. (CSE: CURA) (OTCQX: CURLF) could find themselves having to adjust to this reality in the markets where they operate.
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