Cannabis lounges could be coming to the City of San Diego soon. The San Diego City Council recently called for proposals from the cannabis industry regarding the potential change in the city’s policy regarding so-called “social-use lounges”. According to the LA Times, “council members asked staff to find out what kind of regulations were in place in other cities.”

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San Francisco has been allowing the use of cannabis lounges for years now. The Bay Area, Eureka, Palm Springs, and West Hollywood have already OK’d them as well. 

The San Diego, California Economic Development Committee met last week to discuss the issue and hear some of the industry’s proposals. The meeting was “for informational purposes only,” and no vote was actually taken.

Medical marijuana has been legal in California since as early as 1996. California residents voted in 2016 to legalize recreational cannabis across the state for those over the age of 21. Despite legalization, however, public consumption of cannabis has remained strictly prohibited throughout the majority of California.

Venice Beach California medical marijuana iStock / joebelanger

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Although residents are free to light up in the privacy of their own homes, for those low-income residents who rent or live in public housing, such bans have existed to prevent qualified patients from accessing their medical cannabis, or risk being evicted to do so.

Erik Altieri is the executive director for the NORML, one of the largest marijuana legalization advocacy groups working for criminal justice reform. In a Rolling Stones interview last week, said Altieri, “By preventing retail outlets and other venues from being licensed and regulated for social consumption, many patients will have to choose between effective cannabis treatment for their ailments or being thrown out of public housing. This causes the civil liberties that come with marijuana legalization to still be kept at arms lengths from low-income individuals and members of other marginalized communities.”

The Association for Cannabis Professionals (ACP) is a trade association based out of the San Diego Area. According to their Twitter profile, the ACP is the “most active cannabis trade association in California,” their mission: “to advance & protect the interests of our members.” In response to the recent committee hearing, said ACP board member, Dallin Young, cannabis lounges are “ultimately going to take people away from the illicit market and bring revenue back to the city.”

Some skeptical San Diego residents have expressed concern that allowing cannabis clubs will lead to a spike in DUIs. In an interview with NBC last week, said San Diegan for Safe Neighborhood member, Scott Chipman, “There’s a big concern with drug-impaired driving. The economic benefit would be far outweighed by the cost.”       

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Alaska recently became the first state to broadly legalize “on-site marijuana use,” rather than giving cities the discretion to decide on the issue individually, as most other states have opted to do. Beginning April 11th of this year, the state of Alaska will be accepting applications for “special onsite use endorsement[s],” allowing dispensary owners to open up “designated smoking areas where patrons will be permitted to smoke cannabis.”